Published January 13, 2015
A three-year-old deaf boy is being told by Nebraska educators he has to change his sign language name, because the hand gesture looks too much like he's pointing a weapon.
Hunter Spanjer signs his name with gesture
"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.
Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?
"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way," said Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue.
"It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E.," Brian Spanjer said.
S.E.E. stands for Signing Exact English, Hunter's sign language. Hunter's name gesture is modified with crossed-fingers to show it is uniquely his own.
"We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child," said Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson.
That's just about all GIPS officials will say for now.
Meantime, Hunter's parents say that by Monday, lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf are likely to weigh in for Hunter's right to sign his own name.
Despite whatever rules and regulations may exist, some Grand Islanders we spoke with said they don't think it's right to make a three year-old change the way he says his name.
"It's his name. It's not like he's going to bring a gun to school when he's three years old," commented Dana Schwieger.
"I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Grand Island resident Fredda Bartenbach reflected.
But for now, that's a discussion between the Spanjers and Grand Island Public Schools officials.
A three-year-old student's name sign would not "injure another person" and is definitely not intended "to resemble an item which could cause injury." The NAD calls on Grand Island Public Schools to retract its request and issue a statement that respects and supports Hunter Spanjer's cultural and linguistic identity.