August 28, 2012
Now a three and a half year old deaf preschooler named Hunter Spanjer has been told that he may actually have to change the sign for his name, which is an actual registered sign through Signing Exact English (SEE).
The Grand Island Public School (GIPS) system in Grand Island, Nebraska has a “Weapons in Schools” policy, Board Policy 8470, which forbids “any instrument … that looks like a weapon,” and apparently this includes the hands of a preschooler.
“He’s deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy,” said Brian Spanjer, Hunter’s father, to local news outlet 1011 Now.
“Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous,” said Janet Logue, Hunter’s grandmother. “This is not threatening in any way.”
The most absurd aspect of this situation is that the sign for Hunter’s name is actually a registered sign with SEE, which means that it is not some made up weapon-like gesture (if such a thing exists).
To make matters even worse, Hunter’s name gesture is modified with cross-fingers, thus making it uniquely his own personal name sign.
Jack Sheard, a spokesperson for the Grand Island Public Schools system, said that they will work with Hunter and his family but this indicates that they won’t just drop it.
“We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child,” Sheard said.
For now, this is all that GIPS officials will say about the situation, according to 1011 Now.
Thankfully, Hunter’s parents are already stepping up and taking action. They said that they are going to consult lawyers with the National Association of the Deaf to see what they say about Hunter’s right to sign his own name in school.
I’m glad to say that not everyone in Grand Island is silly enough to agree with the school board, despite their policy.
“It’s his name. It’s not like he’s going to bring a gun to school when he’s three years old,” said local resident 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,” said Fredda Bartenbach, another Grand Islander.
Unfortunately, the opinion of the public simply doesn’t factor into the situation in the slightest. As 1011 Now concludes, “But for now, that’s a discussion between the Spanjers and Grand Island Public Schools officials.”
The fact that the school board would take such a position to begin with is, in my view, a bad sign for the future of the case.