Why Can’t This Young Boy Sign His Name at School?

I was shocked to read that a 3-year-old boy in Nebraska has been denied the right to use his sign language name at school.

Below is the entire article by Steve Ross with 1011now.com. It is Lipreading Mom’s conviction that children with deafness or hearing loss should be allowed to use the communication method that works best for them in school. In this young boy’s situation, his first language is See Exact English (SEE). Yet the right to communicate his name with sign has been denied him.

What are your thoughts?

Grand Island Preschooler Forbidden Sign Language for His Own Name

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.

“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.


8 thoughts on “Why Can’t This Young Boy Sign His Name at School?

  1. A deafie here: you are right on! While it’s not really a surprise, it is WRONG to deny a deaf/hoh person of their langauage, their ONLY way of communication.

    ok just watched the video… umm i’m back and forth with this, the name sign does looks like a gun gesture, while i know that’s not the purpose here, but it can cause people to get the wrong idea/impression and see it as a threat since they dont unserstand ASL. if it was me, i would change the sign name, to avoid further confusion. Just my opinion.

    But again when i think of it the sign for ‘hurry’ might look like a gun gesture to other people, dunno

  2. At this age it is not threatening, but by the time the child moves on to middle school and high school, the hand sign may look Intimidating to the point there would be complaints. It is something the parents will have to decide if they do not mind facing this issue again in the future. Long ago when this sign was adopted, probably before playing cowboy and indian days, the sign was not taken as a threat. It all depends on the manner it is used. Tough call.

  3. I don’t think the sign is threatening in any way. This is really taking things too far. If a hearing child’s name was Gunther, Tommy (as in Tommy gun) or Colt they would never make the parents rename him. A name sign is not just a nickname it’s his name. If I were his Mom I’d stand up for Hunter’s right to his name. I’d understand if they objected to a nickname but this is something else. It shows a lack of understanding of the importance of a name sign to a deaf person.

    • Eve – That is an excellent point. Name signs are an important part of the Deaf culture. In college, my sign name was the letter “S” and the sign for “curly” since I had curly hair then. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Hunter Spanjer, 3-Year-Old Deaf Boy, Told By Preschool To Change Way He Signs His Name (VIDEO) – From Huffington Post « deafinprison

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