Scope and Contents
The Tripod Collection contains materials from 1971 through 2006 with the bulk of the materials dated between 1982 and 2005.
Materials include correspondence, financial papers, legal papers, organizational documents, notes and speeches, clippings, printed materials, photographic material, drawings, a scrapbook, moving images, ephemera, digital media, and audio.
The Tripod Collection has been arranged into thirteen series, seven of which have been divided into subseries. This collection is housed in 87 archival document boxes, 8 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, and 13 additional archival boxes.
Materials in this collection are related to the development, administration, funding, programing, and dissolution of the Tripod school in California. More specifically, financial records document Tripod’s acceptance of donations and grants. Many unique documents from fundraising events include silent auction signs from an annual Casino Night and letters of support from Former President Bill Clinton, Former President George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton in honor of the Annual Luncheon benefit showing the importance of fundraising to furthering Tripod’s mission. In addition to courting politicians, the school had strong ties to the Hollywood community and employed celebrity support, one of their strongest supporters being Cindy Costner.
Student and personnel records provide documentation of individuals involved in Tripod and show the events that they participated in including a student performance at Delaine Eastin’s oath of office ceremony as California State Superintendent in 1999.
Board meeting materials and minutes provide an important look at the school’s planning process and key individuals that helped to shape its existence.
Tripod brochures, calendars, and newsletters portray Tripod’s marketing and how Tripod disseminated news to its students and their families. Articles provide a look at how the school was perceived in the press and provides records of notable events and historical information.
Program descriptions and related materials provide a look at the variety of programs offered to students, families and the community. Documents describe the Montessori Method, the educational model that was shared at conferences and expanded to other schools. The Grapevine toll-free hotline ads stating, "maybe he isn’t listening because he can’t hear" and fliers describe what the hotline offers. The Grapevine public service announcement featured Jeff Goldblum, Chevy Chase, Herb Larson, and JoBeth Williams, the four of which can be seen in a photograph as well as the original PSA, viewable after the credits of Language Says It All.
Much of the digital media in the collection contains Language Says It All, the short documentary that received an Academy Award nomination. The film is available on DVD as well as through the Legacy website,
In addition to the awards received by the documentary, plaques and awards received from government institutions and politicians show the wide acclaim for Tripod’s teaching methods, its outreach, and staff.
This collection includes photographs, many of which were originally in photo albums that have been scanned and rehoused. Photographs document events, school activities, students, staff, faculty, facilities, and provide a literal glimpse of Tripod.
- Creation: 1971 - 2006
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1982 - 2005
Language of Materials
The materials in this collection are in English with a few documents in Spanish and Armenian.
Conditions Governing Access
VHS and DVD materials require advance notice to access and are limited to on-site researchers only. Access to additional film and digital media cannot be provided. Access to portions of this collection is RESTRICTED; please contact the RIT Archives for more details. Access to digital images of photo albums is available through \\twcfileserver\Archives\Digitized Materials for adding to LUNA\RITDSA0183_Tripod.
Conditions Governing Use
This collection is open to researchers.
The Tripod school was founded in 1982 by Megan Williams, the mother of a young deaf boy, Jacob, to meet the complex educational needs of deaf children and their families.
The TRIPOD acronym, Toward Rehabilitation and Involvement of Parents of the Deaf, was derived in 1969 to represent a philosophy of cooperation and community between educators, the deaf community, and parents of children with hearing loss, each group representing the three legs on a tripod. The school built its foundation on this philosophy establishing an educational program where deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing children learned together in co-enrolled classrooms using sign language.
Supported by two well-known educators of the deaf, Carl Kirchner and Cindy Murphy, as well as parents, educators, and community leaders, Tripod utilized the Montessori Method and provided a variety of programs to support students and their families. These included the Family Sign Program, ASL classes, the Parent-Infant-Toddler Program, tutoring, and summer school. Another program, the Grapevine hotline, was a national toll-free hotline established to provide parents with information on raising and educating a deaf child. The Grapevine was able to reach parents, students, and deaf callers, fielding about a thousand calls a year from across the country. The notable public service announcement featured Chevy Chase, JoBeth Williams, Herb Larson, and Jeff Goldblum.
The Tripod school model was adopted by additional schools and districts in California, including the Horace Mann School, John Muir Middle School in 1990, Laurent Clerc Academy (Project Ladder) in 1993, and the Washington Elementary School. Tripod welcomed over one hundred visitors from around the world annually, including parents, educators, Special Education Directors, and State Superintendents, which encouraged outreach and adoption of the Tripod model.
Fundraising was an important aspect to the school’s financial stability which relied on grants, fundraising events, and donations. Movie premiers also served as fundraising opportunities, showcasing captioned films produced by Tripod Captioned Films, a public service and subsidiary of the school. At one point, Tripod Captioned Films was the only source to obtain and distribute first-run open-captioned films anywhere in the United States.
Tripod also produced their own documentaries, one of which was Language Says It All
57.7 Linear Feet (109 Boxes)
The Tripod collection documents the development, administration, and educational values of the Tripod school in California which was active between 1982 and 2005. Educating through co-enrollment of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children in conjunction with the Montessori Method, the model expanded to other schools and districts. The school offered a variety of programs serving students and their families as well as providing information on raising and educating deaf and hard of hearing children.
System of Arrangement
Series I. Finances, 1980-2006
Subseries A. Donations/Grants, 1980-2006
Subseries B. Fundraising, 1982-2004
Series II. Personnel, 1982-2005
Series III. Students and Families, 1984-2003
Subseries A. Families/Parents1984-2003
Subseries B. Students, 1985-2003
Series IV. Board of Directors, 1983-2005
Series V. Press and Publicity, 1973-2005
Subseries A. Logos, 1991-2003
Subseries B. Calendars, 1987-1999
Subseries C. Fliers/Brochures, 1985-1999
Subseries D. Articles, 1973-2005
Subseries E. Newsletters, 1983-2002
Subseries F. Scholarly Papers, 1991-2000
Series VI. Education, 1983-2004
Subseries A. Programs, 1983-2004
Series VII. Administration, 1971-2006
Subseries A. Committees, 1984-2003
Subseries B. Organizational Documents, 1971-2006
Subseries C. Events, 1984-1993
Subseries D. Correspondence, 1982-2001
Subseries E. Facility, 1983-2005
Subseries F. Legal, 1989-2002
Subseries G. Reports, 1984-1994
Series VIII. Outreach/Partnerships, 1983-2003
Subseries A. Conferences, 1992-2002
Subseries B. Schools, 1985-2003
Series IX. Supporting Materials, 1984-2004
Series X. Ephemera, 1980-2002
Series XI. Plaques/Awards, 1984-2000
Series XII. Films, 1982-2002
Series XIII. Photographs, 1983-2003
Subseries A. Photo Albums, 1984-1994
Subseries B. Loose Photos, 1983-2003
Other Finding Aids
In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.
The Tripod collection was donated to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf/Rochester Institute of Technology in 2011. The papers were accessioned under ID 2011:088 and were received from Megan Williams in 94 boxes (along with materials related to the Tripod Captioned Films collection).
Terms to Note
BUSD – The Burbank Unified School District was responsible for the administration and quality control of the BUSD/Foothill SELPA/Tripod Program and a partner of Tripod starting in 1989.
DHH – “deaf and hard of hearing”
FSP – The Family Sign Program provided in-home tutoring to families.
HEI – House Ear Institute was a partner with Tripod to support the Grapevine hotline program and later ran the Lead Line, the successor of the Grapevine.
IEP – Individual Education Plan
LSIA/BTN – Language Says It All/Back to Normal (working title) was a short documentary produced in 1987 about communication with deaf children that was nominated for an Academy Award. It was followed by a sequel, Once Upon a Time.
PIT – Parent-Infant-Toddler Program
SELPA – Special Education Local Plan Area (California) TCF – Tripod Captioned Films
TRIPOD – Toward Rehabilitation Involvement by Parents of the Deaf, the name of which originated in 1969. Tripod is denoted throughout the collection by the figure of a triangle.
Nicole Pease, January - April 2018
- Bove, Linda (Person)
- Burbank Unified School District (Organization)
- Bush, George (Person)
- Clinton, Bill, 1946- (Person)
- Clinton, Hillary Rodham (Person)
- Costner, Cindy (Person)
- Dion, Celine, 1968- (Person)
- Eastin, Delaine (Person)
- Freund, Mark (Person)
- Gallaudet University (Organization)
- Goldberg, Merle (Person)
- Ivankovic, Patricia Ann (Person)
- Kirchner, Carl J. (Person)
- Koopman, Trice (Person)
- Montan, Barbara (Person)
- Montan, Chris (Person)
- Murphy, Cynthia K. (LeBuffe) (Person)
- Opie, Christopher (Person)
- Shamberg, Michael (Person)
- Special Education Local Plan Area (Organization)
- Tripod Captioned Films (Organization)
- Williams, Megan (Person)
Genre / Form
- American Sign Language
- Deaf children
- Deaf children -- California
- Deaf children -- Education -- California -- Evaluation
- Deaf children -- Education -- United States -- Statistics
- Deaf children -- Services for
- Education -- Co-enrollment
- Education -- Sign language
- Education, Primary
- Education, Secondary
- Films for the hearing impaired
- Montessori method of education
- Montessori method of education -- California -- History -- 20th century
- School administration
- Tripod collection
- RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive
- Nicole Pease
- April 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note