“Hunter,” a Deaf 3-Year-Old, Told Signing His Name Violates School’s Gun Policy

Hi Folks!  This is perhaps the most absurd story ever reported here — and that’s saying a lot! A reader named Rachel writes:

A Deaf child named Hunter is not allowed to use his name sign because the sign for “Hunter” (a dictionary word) uses the thumb and first two fingers in a gun shape and suggests a shooting motion. Here’s the story.

These school officials have lost their ability to reason if they believe stripping a child of his name is necessary for safety under a weapons policy. Educators who are unable to use logic and critical thinking have no business educating.

I just sent a letter to the school board expressing my outrage. Everyone else can too at  http://www.gips.org/contact_us

Thanks, Rachel 

133 Responses

  1. Forget the school. I’d make an equal rights complaint under the ADA and let the Feds sort them out. That’s a violation of that child’s civil rights.

  2. That is unreal! We’re about to “PC” ourselves into some kind of Nutsville place to live! If we haven’t already…

    Thanks for this story…and I LOVE your blog!

  3. This is absolutely ridiculous. People have lost their minds!

  4. I’m speechless. And that isn’t a cheap joke, either.

  5. That may be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

  6. I’m utterly outraged and have used the contact form to send a letter of my own. Whatever happened to common sense and shared humanity, not to mention respecting the dignity of a 3 year old and his family?

  7. would the admin consider a school-wide policy of using only words which don’t contain the letters G, U, or N?

  8. To err on the side of safety, the school ought to expel anyone named Hunter, Gunn, Knight, Spears ….

  9. Also sending a letter. Beyond ridiculous…beyond absurd…beyond…..

  10. That’s the best thing about “zero tolerance” policies – they require zero thought. No room for human error as everyone in the bureaucracy can show how they followed the protocol exactly as written. Accountability is passed up the chain all the way to the top, where the multi-six-figure salary superintendent can blame the county, or the school board if it even gets that far. Any public outrage can be quickly deflected by issuing a “one-time exception” with the understanding that everyone was acting in the best interests of the children and the strong implication that this exception doesn’t at all invalidate the policy.

    After this story makes the rounds the kid will probably be instructed to not use his name in a threatening manner, or they will reach a “compromise” and require the child to use a nickname with a different sign, like “H”.

    The important thing here is to make sure that children understand that they must blindly follow the law to the letter. The adults that run the school, their role models for being grown up (among others) show that you should not think for yourself or doubt the supremacy of what authority tells you, because it’s in your own best interest and you are incapable of making decisions. So far it seems like children (and their parents) are learning this lesson well.

    Homeschooling my daughter. Whatever it takes.

  11. If his name was GUNNER, would they not let him SPEAK it? I am so beyond outraged…I can hardly breathe.

  12. Surprised they haven’t made all hand gesturing illegal for children.

  13. Seems silly to mention but look where we’re starting out here. Since he’s customizing the sign by using a twist of his 2nd and 3rd fingers (how cool is that) his adorable little double barreled gun is by it’s very own definition inoperable and therefore not a threat at all.

  14. I’m with Rich

    Forget the school. I’d make an equal rights complaint under the ADA and let the Feds sort them out.

    The school has lost the ability to use logic.

  15. The scariest part is that schools are put in place to teach children how to think and use common sense.

  16. “Seems silly to mention but look where we’re starting out here. Since he’s customizing the sign by using a twist of his 2nd and 3rd fingers (how cool is that) his adorable little double barreled gun is by it’s very own definition inoperable and therefore not a threat at all.”

    Melissa, what about the day this little brat gets angry with the teacher and untwists his fingers?

  17. WUT.

    Seriously, this goes beyond WUT into WUT THE HECK.

  18. This has to be the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard on this site. People working in the Deaf community, they of all people should be able to understand the difference between threatening signs and non-threatening ones and how intent makes all the difference in how a message comes across. To strip a child of his identity for the sake of perceived safety goes too far.

    And he shouldn’t settle for a compromise as Nebuchadnezzar suggested might happen. Your identity is worth fighting for.

  19. Sounds like a lawsuit to me. When you not only fear the object but anything that might in anyway resemble the object you have lost all sense if reality.

  20. In reply to Donald, schools are actually there NOT to teach children to think but to brainwash them in to blindly submitting to authority.

    It sounds like this school is doing it’s job perfectly!

  21. Just when I think school policies can’t possibly get any more ridiculous. Are you sure this isn’t an Onion article?

    *reads on*

    Oh, cripes. It’s real.

    ‘ “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.’

    Here’s a solution – pull your stupid fat head out of your stupid fat butt.

  22. Did anyone else notice down the very bottom of the contact us page on the schools website, that the school states that it is against their policy to discriminate against people based on a number of factors including ‘handicap’ I wonder do they realise that is precisely what they are doing to Hunter, therefore violating their own policies. The world has actually gone mad.

  23. I get the impression from the article that this is the sign for the word “hunter.” Probably pretty close or the same as the sign for “gun” too. In addition to not being able to say his own name, can he also never talk about hunters or hunting or guns at all simply because he is deaf? I mean I assume the rest of the class can say “daddy is going hunting this weekend,” without being reprimanded, but not poor Hunter because he has to make his fingers into a gun to say it rather than just speaking the word.

  24. W. T. F.??? I love how, just when you think things couldn’t get more absurd, Lenore finds something that beats all that came before it.

  25. The really scary implication is, of course, that apparantly, schools in the US consider a child’s fingers to be weapons. So if a bunch of seven year olds run around on the schoolyard playing ‘cops and robbers’ or ‘cowboys and injuns’ (or whatever kids play these ‘enlightened’ days) and they go ‘pew pew’ at each other, yelling ‘you’re dead Jim McGrew’, this is considered EXACTLY THE SAME as a seventeen year old bringing a loaded tommygun to school and going on a Columbine killing spree.

    This has no doubt sprouted from the same diseased mindset of the people who actively believe (and have been writing books and official policy for the past thirty years) that giving a child a few disciplinary swats to the bum, or even a few fun ‘birthday spanks’ is EXACTLY THE SAME as taking a piece of two by four with seven rusty nails spiking through it and beating it into submission, the hospital and an early grave, or that any non-parental touch (kindergarten teachers consoling a hurt child, helping a kid with a stubborn jacket zipper or whatever) is EXACTLY THE SAME as violent anal rape.

    Every adult that talks to a kid is a pedofile, every touch is a Bad Touch and every handgesture that even vaguely resembles ‘pointing a gun’ is an indication of mindless violence, aggression and death.

    These.. people… have NO sense of proportion, whatsoever.

  26. ffs. American Sign Language or sign language overall (yes sign language(s) are different, having regional differences and an amazing array of slang just as any other language) is a LANGUAGE for COMMUNICATION. Kids put their own touch to the language as does kids with any language. I have a friend with 5 kids, all are deaf as are the friend and the father of the children. Signing was and will always be the first language of them, to deny them that is to deny their very existence. I’d raise bloody hell and then some!

  27. The federal government does not permit any public school to discriminate on the basis of handicap. File an immediate injunction. Get a lawsuit going. Get the court involved now! Do not let this child be psychologically tortured by these district idiots who are clearly just scared of their own shadows. They even shut down thei “contact us” site. Afraid of angry emails? Oh so scary to read another persons opinion. Well I guess if you are scared of a little boys hand the world must bring a daily dose of pants-wetting fear.

  28. Hunter’s sign name is personalized version of the sign for “hunter”. Would they have him not SAY his name verbally? These people are insane, worst part, the ASL letter “H” (as well as “G”) arguably look like finger guns too…

  29. Comment posted on their site. Let the FRK army rise to the challenge.🙂

  30. Letter sent, and just for the record… I have some commonly used sign language for these administrators. .l.

  31. I don’t know the sign for my name, but if, for the sake of argument, it involved lewd hand gestures, then it’s kind of a difficult issue. On the one hand there is censorship to protect the other people in the room from being offended by my lewd gestures, but on the other hand there’s a duty to respect this child and his special needs, and even respect the parents’ decision to name their child Hunter. Obviously nobody wants to prevent the child from gaining essential socialization at this young age, but not if it proves to create a pattern of disruption in his class. Hunter is a noun, and it is also a name (which is then a proper noun). Not all names have multiple meanings, and often spellings for names are the norm in sign language, even if your name happens to correspond to another sign, like the name Jack, for instance, or the sign for the verb “to jack.”

  32. I sent a comment to the school, also shared on facebook and asked my friends to do the same.

    It just boggles the mind that anyone would even think for a moment that it is okay to force a 3 year old to change his name.

  33. What do they suggest he change his name to? Gatherer??

    How are we employing school officials that are total morons?

  34. From the way this post is written, it sounds as if the teacher acted in haste rather than having a proper discussion with the school’s supervisors, the special needs experts on staff, the families involved, and even Hunter himself. Her overly zealous reaction sounds offensive and impractical, but the implication that this is a case of liberals discriminating against hunters is a little far fetched. With the increase in school shootings, children are not supposed to make threats against each other, even with their hands. It is a fine line to draw to say when an action is worthy of discipline. If Hunter abused this extremely rare situation and ran around pretending to shoot everyone else in school, then it’s a problem. If not, then the teacher should have gone through the proper channels before handing down such a rash and inconsiderate punishment.

  35. Gabe,
    Do you work for the school board in question.

    I do not care if the kids name is Machine Gun Kelly Jr., named after his great grandfather. I do not care if someones name is offensive to someone else. I do not care if someone feels that someones name could be a disruption.

    If Hunter was my son, he would sign his name every chance he got in school, followed by giving the school the finger, until they got it through their thick skulls, just how stupid they are being.

  36. I know this is a couple of states over, but here’s the education plank from the Texas GOP:

    “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

    When we as a society oppose learning critical thinking and questioning authority, we get these sorts of ludicrous and authoritarian decisions that make no sense whatsoever and should never see the light of day.

  37. As for Hunter, he should change his symbol to “My Teachers and Administrators Are Total Morons”. A bit more wordy but certainly complies with the weapons policy.

  38. Gabe: School shootings have substantially declined over the last 20 years, though you wouldn’t know it from media coverage (an extremely rare subtype of school shooting has actually increased, though it’s still rare compared to, say, fatal jumbo-jet crashes, but the most common type of school shooting is far rarer today than it was from roughly 1975-1995).

  39. “Teacher Of The Year” John Taylor Gotto wrote a book called The Underground History Of American Education which, if you read it, will seriously shock you and make you rethink sending your children to school. This man who had dedicated his life to teaching, who was himself a beloved teacher, learned how destructive schools are to children, and to their education, and why this is so.

    John Holt, a beloved teacher, stopped teaching and wrote books on “How Children Learn” and “How Children Fail” among others. He also learned about the and mindlessness of schools and their negative impact on children.

  40. Now I wish I had a kid to name Machine Gun Kelly.

  41. No, I don’t work for the school board. The middle finger is not appropriate in a classroom or in any public setting. It’s both a crude insult and a threat. A 3-year old should not be encouraged to flick people off, because it is offensive and might incite violence. School shootings are a bigger issue now than they were in the past, and schools are more aware of the risks of bullying and the possibility of extreme violence within their school than ever before. The numbers aren’t the issue; the issue is that schools should continue to work on preventing things that they believe are warning signs that may lead to further disruption and possible safety issues in the school. Hunter is caught up in a much bigger issue than just whether it not he has an appropriate name; the school passed a rule banning the use of hands to threaten other students through violent gestures. I do believe the teacher made a mistake by blindly enforcing the rules without seeking a reasonable solution that accommodates both needs.

  42. It’s a zero tolerance policy regarding guns. A child’s hands, are not guns.

  43. Gabe, “REASONABLE SOLUTION”?!?! Suits both needs??? This is the kid’s NAME we are talking about. My son’s name is Gunner. You may not like, it, but that does not mean you or some overly sanctimonious paper pusher can tell him he can’t say his name, or sign it if he were deaf, because it offends your delicate sensibilities. There is no reasoning here. Look at the hand gesture he uses. It is neither offensive nor threatening. A child should not have to alter his own identity.

  44. I’m not disagreeing with you at all. In fact, I said that I felt that it is both the right of the parents and the child to choose a name and form an identity. I’ve said three times that the teacher made a mistake. I am just pointing out that there is more anger here than actual facts. We know just a few things and several people seem to be calling for a witch hunt. I would like to know all of the facts before passing judgment. Don’t you think that there is a fair solution here, even though a horrendous mistake was made? The child is 3; he’s not enraged over this. You, however, are, and at me, even though I’m agreeing with you.

  45. I sent a comment. I will share on my FB tonight.

  46. Gabe,
    There is only one fair solution.
    The school, the board and all those involved need to apologize to Hunter and his family, for their imcompotence. End of story, black and white, cut and dry.
    There is no middle ground, no compromise, no gray area. Hunter is his name and that is all there is to it.

  47. That sounds like an automatic here; I was just assuming that that was a given. I think that’s the crucial first step, but there are rights that must be upheld, so somehow they need to make an exception in their school’s policy and ensure that this never happens again.

  48. That’s what I mean by compromise; they need to rewrite their school’s policies and procedures so that they can achieve both goals of protecting the students and protecting their basic civil rights. I don’t know what is written now, so I can’t even guess what might need to be changed. It is still possible that this teacher misinterpreted the rules and acted alone, in which case disciplinary action may be called for. Just don’t know with such limited information.

  49. So, because this sign can’t be used, this child is going to miss out on a lot. No “Little Red Riding Hood” because…there is a Hunter. No “Peter and the Wolf”, because there is a Hunter. No history about Native Americans and other older cultures, early Colonists, etc, because…they were hunters.

    What a sad education this boy will get.

  50. Yan Seiner, I think you are falling into the trap of taking names at face value. Things like HOTS and various behavior modification systems have lots of things that lots of people object to, and many believe them to teach authoritarianism, and as they say, directly undermines what the parents teach at home. (ablogaboutschool.blogspot.com discusses the behavior system PBIS in detail). So while you may disagree with the GOP in other areas, I suspect you would have some common ground with them here.

  51. The GOP and Texas board of education have fallen into the trap of saying exactly what they mean. And then getting apologists to whine about it for them.

  52. How terrible. I think the whole policy is outrageous, up to and including this end result. Growing up, the “gun” gesture was pretty common in school, even high school. Sometimes, you’d point it at others, sometimes you’d point it at your own head as a sign of boredom or aggravation. Even faculty did it on occasion. There was never a school shooting at my school, and the two gun-related suicides I’m aware of among my classmates had other causes, I suspect. I don’t think my experience is unusual. It’s ridiculous to imply that this is some kind of “gateway” activity. If it becomes a true disruption, I don’t see why modern teachers can’t deal with it the same way that my teachers did — by punishing it appropriately, the same way they handled a myriad of other obnoxious behvaiors.

  53. Yan, in fairness, that plank does not indicate that they oppose the teaching of thinking skills. They are opposing a specific method known as Higher Order Thinking Skills, because they believe it is an ineffective and/or harmful method.

    If there were some phonics program called Phonics for Everyone, and someone opposed using Phonics for Everyone, it would not mean that they opposed teaching phonics, for everyone.

    Gabe: the problem with your analogy is that a symbol for hunting is not a lewd symbol, nor analogous to one, and the people who have developed ASL over the years are not a bunch of sickos who teach children to make lewd gestures as a means of everyday communication.

    The day some child appears who has to use a lewd gesture to say his own name, we can talk. Until then, the comparison is irrelevant because a gunlike sign that indicates “hunter” is no more comparable to a lewd gesture than a some sign that would indicate “cookie” might be.

  54. Cut the infected arm, that is called insanity, from society. This is getting beyond ridiculous! What next, change someone’s face because it offends some people? Wow. These “educators” need some serious psychological counseling. You’d have to be crazy to believe a 3 year old child’s sign name is a threat. If Hunter needs to change his name, then everyone at that school, including the staff and board need to as well. THAT would be the only other fair solution. The ultimate fair, and reasonable solution is to get rid of that stupid policy, let Hunter be, and move on. I’m not one for suing, but these idiots need to a swift kick to the gonads to shake some common sense back into them.

  55. Lawsuit time. The school is in violation of the ADA. And yes, I hate culture of lawsuits, but this is one case where it’s entirely appropriate.

  56. “That’s what I mean by compromise; they need to rewrite their school’s policies and procedures so that they can achieve both goals of protecting the students and protecting their basic civil rights. ”

    No policy needs to be rewritten because no one is left “unprotected” by allowing a child to sign the word “hunter.” Sheesh. You don’t need to find a compromise every time someone has an irrational, hysterical, illogical reaction to something innocuous. You need people to exercise some intelligence in how they administer the goal of preventing violence. There is NO policy that will excuse responsible persons from having to exercise intelligent judgment, and that includes teachers making the intelligent judgment that allowing a child to sign the word for “hunter,” regardless of whether it’s his own name or not, puts nothing and no one at any degree of risk whatsoever.

  57. Hunter should change his name to Factory Farming and see if there is equal outrage.

  58. This is doubly idiotic because this is Western Nebraska, where almost every kid grows up eagerly anticipating the day their Dad will take them hunting for the first time (usually around age 12). What an embarassment to hear this from my home state, where common sense always seemed more abundant than in the Tri-State area where I have been living for the last few years…

  59. Too bad his name isn’t “Condom”. School wouldn’t have any problem with that word…

  60. One of the main problems has become how we respond to issues like this.
    The whole candy ass way of thinking, let’s see if we can rewrite the policy so that…………is why we are in this situation now.

    Instead of meekly asking for a minor rewording of the rules so that Hunter is allowed to sign his name, someone should walk up and cuff the administrator in the back of the head, and tell him or her or them to wake the fuck up. Sorry for the language but I dont know the sign for the f word.

    We do not work for these people, they work for us. And if they do not like it, then get a new job.

  61. I just sent this letter to the school board at the link above in complaint for this RIDICULOUS, UNINFORMED approach by the “leaders” in this school district:

    I am writing on behalf of Hunter, the 3 1/2 year old Deaf child in your school district who is being asked to CHANGE HIS NAME (a HUGE part of any person’s identity) while in school. Whether the name is in sign language or spoken, asking a child to change how he identifies himself – at 3 1/2 – is abusive and UNINFORMED on the part of your school district. Overall – this is BEYOND ridiculous!! An amazing Deaf child who is developing language like his peers and has a sense of identity because he knows his name (many Deaf children not given sign language until later do not have this at 3!) – and the school is going to act like a 3 year old with the name Hunter, using the appropriate sign to represent his name – is a threat in some way?? Because it looks something like a gun? What moronic adult was given any sort of authority who now is making this decision? They should sent to study linguistics, language, child development, and the beauty of a three year old Deaf child with such great language and sense of identity in a culture that, by and large, preferences all things hearing to such an extent that many Deaf children at his age would not even know his name… CHEERS to the parents on how they are raising this amazing little boy and JEERS to the uninformed school officials making such an asinine decision that will oppress the sense of identity of a child during pivotal development years! I think a civil rights violation being filed is HIGHLY appropriate in this situation! I see the comments that ask – if a hearing child has a name such as “Colt” or “Wesson Smith” – would THEY be asked to change their name for school?? I HIGHLY doubt it – this is discrimination against both sign language and a Deaf child who must use signing to communicate – to strip a child of part of HIS NAME – especially in school where he will develop relationships, learn social skills, and grow both academically, psychologically, and socially – is cruel and emotionally abusive! I DO hope the parents seek legal action in this case so that this school district gains MUCH NEEDED education on both child psychological development and linguistic development – it is obvious these school leaders need educating before they can BEGIN to educate the young minds of our future! This story is spreading like wildfire and NOT representing this school nor school district well. I do hope this little boy is given the right so use HIS NAME as all children should be allowed!

  62. I posted a link on my facebook to this article and wrote to the school. Everyone should. This little boy’s NAME is being taken away from him. What are they going to do when it’s time to talk about Hunter-gatherers? Soldiers? War? Murder? Drugs? Will this boy, in a few years time, be forbidden from discussing important issues, from understanding them in his native language, because the symbols used for them might offend the overly-delicate sensibilities of the school board?

    Also, let’s not turn this into a political argument. This doesn’t have anything to do with a political party in a different state approving or disapproving of curricula.

  63. @CrazyCatLady–I was thinking about Peter and the Wolf too. Maybe the school can get away with that one, because the tympani in the piece don’t really sound like guns, they sound like drums.

  64. @ Gabe,

    My job involves making and modifying rules, every day. It also involves interpreting contract rules, and dealing with people. Part of the means setting misunderstandings and mistakes right, immediately and not making a rules snafu an innocent person’s problem. It means saying: “I will fix this. If anyone questions you, send them to me. You may also reference this exception/change we are processing for you.”

    That means when Hunter’s parents complained, you don’t whine about policy. You tell them, “This is a terrible misunderstanding, I will correct it, as of now Hunter and his classmates may use his name sign. I am sorry this occurred. And let me know right away if you have any further difficulty.” Then you fix everything starting by telling the teacher she made a horrible mistake, and ending with the paperwork. Gabe, I assume you are part of the school district chain of command you keep spilling details not present in the stories I have seen. If you are, do the right thing and tell Hunter, today, that his name is okay.

  65. @Gabe,
    If you are not part of the school board in question, then you and your way of thinking is part of the problem in general.
    I am tired of people always giving the benefit of the doubt to the system, and it’s administrators. This is the same as saying they know what’s best for us, and we should listen to them.
    That is thinking that has gotten us into all these types of problems. Society has given away so much authority, so many rights that we are ruled, policied, and dictated into submission.
    The only one that knows what is best for me, is me. For Hunter, it is his parents, not some insurance admin., or lawyer, or teacher or anyone.
    Do not try and tell me that we have to work with the rules, or try to comprimise, or wait patiently for the admins. to review the situation.
    If it looks like crap, feels like crap and smells like crap, do not let it fool you, it is crap.

    Why are so many people afraid to call a spade a spade and a jackass a jackass.

  66. “We’re about to “PC” ourselves into some kind of Nutsville place to live!”

    About to? We’ve been there for some time. All that’s happening now it the city walls of Nutsville are getting higher and the exits fewer.

    “Instead of meekly asking for a minor rewording of the rules so that Hunter is allowed to sign his name, someone should walk up and cuff the administrator in the back of the head, and tell him or her or them to wake the fuck up. Sorry for the language but I dont know the sign for the f word. We do not work for these people, they work for us. And if they do not like it, then get a new job.”

    Judicious use of the f bomb is fine.😉 Sometimes is establishes just the right context or expression of frustration.

    You need to realize that there’s a lot people out there who don’ t think like you or I. Recent estimates claim that 1 out of 25 people is a sociopath to some degree.

    The smartest (the alphas I call them) get to the high levels of politics because, let’s be honest, you cannot survive a run for major office anymore unless you have no real emotions or feelings. It’s a simple filtering effect.

    The bottom rung of the spectrum (omegas, to keep with the pack animal theme) are just thugs and serial killers and whatnot.

    In the middle are the sigmas (math geeks will get the joke)- a whole variety of people operating without the smarts to hit it big in one ideological camp or another, but with a level of control so that they don’t just join the criminal class. They have a fetishistic need for control, and being in education with control over kids is a perfect fit for them.

    However, the letters may help even if it just forces them into self preservation and damage control mode.

  67. So, presumably, he wouldn’t be able to order a soda either, since one of the signs for Coca Cola is pretending to shoot a needle in your arm? Ridiculous. Off to the form to add my 2 (or more) cents.

  68. What idiot is in charge of their special education program?

    I’m glad I’m not this boy’s mom, because I’d be unable to breathe if someone told me that. Shoot. (Uh oh, is that word legal here?)

    Talk about using the shotgun approach to solve a targeted problem. These people are shooting themselves in the foot.

    Glad Rachel brought out the big guns (FRK). Lenore’s a straight shooter when it comes to this stuff. Now let’s hunt these people down and talk some sense into them.

  69. @pentamom – as a former resident of Texas, I must sadly inform you that the state is very much against critical thinking skills.

  70. No, Gabe, the rule does not need to be tweaked. It apparently bans anything that “resembles a weapon.” A person’s HAND does not actually resemble a gun, even if small children are running around playing cops and robbers with it. A hand is not mistaken for a gun in general discourse. Hands cannot be rigged to shoot bullets. What needs to be tweaked is the administration’s belief that a hand resembles a weapon, regardless of the gesture it is making.

    Even if under some some perverse reality a hand can be defined as “resembling a weapon,” there is still no need to tweak the rule. Basic common sense tells you that there is an exception for SIGN LANGUAGE. That a person’s ability to communicate – whether his name or an idea – should not be limited because some adults someplace else many years before this boy was even born decided that that is the sign for “hunter.” That making the sign for “hunter” in communicating with deaf people is not the same as threatening someone. If the administrators and teachers can’t manage that basic level of common sense, they have no business teaching children and should all be fired. In fact, if they have that little common sense, I’m not sure how they’ve managed to live until adulthood and I can’t think of a single profession that they are qualified for.

    Rules can’t address every occurrence. My guess is that this very likely the only deaf boy named Hunter who will attend this school. There is no need to change the rule to accommodate him. Just use common sense in applying them.

  71. you can also file a complaint here
    http://www.gips.org/about-gips/notice-of-nondiscrimination

  72. He can change his name to a middle finger straight up and sign that.

  73. Good work people about support deaf boy bcuz im deaf last time I was at my old deaf school in Wisconsin and I was 18 when i get 2nd time tattoo on my arm and they did kick me out from school for gun policy no they ask me please get band and put it on my arm and cant see my tattoo bcuz it’s fallen soldier tattoo so I dont mind gone to school and tell about how they feel for they teach kids history and history video about WWII they march with guns anywhere in video and show gun kill jews and soldiers in battle……did they broke their own policy and rules too about they teach history about wars in WWII they have guns anywhere in battle???? Yes, they will get trouble…how they feel about that for against deaf kid with sign of Hunter’s name.

  74. Thanks Roland. And though we have disagreed in the past, Donna, you are so very on point.

    My eldest daughter is pursuing a degree, on her way to becoming a teacher. In Ontario, you get your degree, then attend a one year program at a teacher’s college. I am going to ask her if there is any courses dedicated to common sense. I doubt it.

    Thankfully she already has a good head on her shoulders.

    These sheep that work for this school board, that are towing the party line should be ashamed of themselves. And in support of Donna’s statements, they should be fired. Not over the Hunter issue, but because they do not have the required skills or intellect, for parents to trust them with their children.

    What is very alarming, is that it appears no one within this school board has the courage to speak out on Hunter’s behalf.

    I am reminded of the Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. The metaphoric flame thrower may be needed.

  75. Here’s a link to ASL alphabet. I am sure someone will be able to find something offensive in there, too. And what will happen then? Should the child or a deaf person “beep” themselves when finger-spelling?

    http://www.start-american-sign-language.com/printable-sign-language-alphabet.html

  76. As a US Army Soldier who fights for our Constitution and from Nebraska it makes me sick to my stomach to hear this story!

  77. Makes me want to name my hearing child “Sig Sauer Winchester”.

    This is among the most sickening stories I’ve seen in a long time. “EDUCATION” system my eye.

  78. This is all wrapped in the notion that children shouldn’t ‘play’ with ‘guns’…even if the ‘gun’ is their own hand. Many schools don’t allow children to point fingers or sticks at each other. Heck, many parents don’t these days.

    I grew up playing imagination games all day long and many of them involved fake guns, spears, knives, and other weapons. We actually sharpened sticks and hardened them in a fire on many occasions. At the same time, we knew our sharpened sticks actually could hurt someone and we were careful with them.

    The idea seems to be that ALL violent impulses must be curbed, even if the violence is just make believe.

  79. The story has now gone international. The Daily Mail in the UK has an article about Hunter.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2194833/Hunter-Spanjer-Nebraska-school-tells-deaf-student-3-use-new-hand-sign-looks-like-gun.html

    This is looking worse and worse for the school. The longer they say they are in negotiations in working with Hunter’s parents to resolve the situation the longer it becomes obvious the school is looking for a face saving way out. That is just not possible any more. It has gone too far and the only face saving way out is for the school to apologise, change the rules and continue.

  80. Believe we long ago lost the understanding involved in the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law.

  81. Hyper politically correctness just gets better and better. I fear for the human race generations from now as I think we’ll all just implode from sheer stupidity.

  82. And just to add, it’s on the front page of one of my local newspapers now too.

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/2012/08/28/deaf-boys-name-violates-weapons-policy-school

  83. Where I work, we had a case of an employee whose emails to our medical insurance provider were not being received.

    It turned out the medical insurer had a filter blocking sexually explicit emails.

    The employee’s name was Dick.

  84. This is blown out of purportion. the child should be taught how to spell out his name in sign Language as it will be required for the rest of his life. To short cut the child’s name with a gesture, that is typically unacceptable in society and could be misunderstood as a weapon. Is setting the child up for ridicule from adults as well as peers. The gesture cheapens his ability to grow because he will already have the short cut. This child is not going to be three, forever.

  85. @York: I hope your answer was sarcastic…. Most signing languages are symbolic, and use spelling as a last resort, much as you would in a spoken language. One symbol is one concept. You do not spell out words in a conversation when you sign, no more than you spell out words when you speak.

  86. BL, I have a client with a spam magnet in its name. It’s darn hard to get anything accomplished when you have to check the spam filter upteen times a day. But don’t dare laugh about it.😛

  87. York, how would you like to say “hi, my name is y..o..r..k” every time you have to mention your name? It’s not natural. Not impossible, but not necessary. But more importantly, the kid’s name sign in no way means “I’m gonna blow my teachers’ brains out” as is being implied.

  88. Name signs are COMMON in sign language. It’s like a nickname. Deaf people often give their friends and loved one name signs as well…you spell out your name for someone you’re just meeting or don’t know well, but name signs are used in any non-formal situation.

    I grew up with many deaf peers in class and one of my best friends is a deaf man. In school one of the first things we were taught was how to make our own name sign…I still use the same name sign today with my friend. The idea that Hunter would be ridiculed for doing something as common as having a name sign is just foolish…it’s like saying having a nickname stops children from maturing.

  89. @York

    And you are from what planet?

  90. BTW…actually I have two name signs. One is for more formal situations or with people I don’t know well…it’s a simple “M” moved diagonally across the chest. The one I use with my friend is the sign for ‘death’ moved up and down because my first name sounds like ‘morgue’. I used that sign in elementary school too and no one freaked out over it…it was a pun and everyone thought it was funny. But clearly I must want all people dead!

  91. C’mere York,
    Ya feel that………..that was my boot up your ass!

    Hopefully it knocked some sense into you. Hunter has no need to modify who he is, just to accomodate ignorant people.

  92. @York: Yan is right. ASL (or any sign language for that matter) is filled with signs that express entire ideas instead of letters. If you wouldn’t, Deaf people would take ages to spell out a conversation. It is a shortcut, but a necessary one. It won’t cheapen their ability to grow, because the Deaf community understands this.

    By the way, if I remember correctly, since name signs are so highly personal, deaf people tend to spell out their name on a first meeting anyway and only use their personal name sign once they’re familiar with the other person they’re speaking to. This kid isn’t making gun signs at random strangers. He’s signing it to people who already understand what he means.

    What worries me is that the educators don’t seem to know the difference between a kid’s fingers and an actual weapon.

    If you tell someone you’re going to kill them and make a gun sign with your fingers, there is a totally different vibe in the message. The only correct approach is to use common sense. You can’t prohibit a kid’s fingers, because they “look like a gun” that violates a policy. Either the policy should be clearer, or people need to use some sense in applying them. Ban real guns and toys that could be mistaken for real guns and stop worrying about anything else.

  93. Aside from York’s basic misunderstanding of sign language and Deaf culture…how may 3 year-olds do you know who can spell? Hunter won’t even have the fine motor skills necessary to sign the alphabet with enough precision to be widely understood for a year or more – just as your average hearing 3 year-old does not enunciate well enough to be understood by many adults.

    York’s point is moot anyway. It is Hunter’s right to say his name, and be referred to by his name. If the school doesn’t back down, they will be losing a lawsuit for infringement of Hunters right to free speech and a free public education.

  94. @York – please familiarize yourself with signed English and ASL and the deaf community in general before making comments on peer views and/or how the deaf and hard of hearing “should” communicate. My name, for instance, is pretty long, and I don’t care how fast someone can sign (and I myself am NOT speedy), to always spell my name would be ridiculous. A name sign is much faster and keeps the flow of conversation going. And, you may or may not have noticed, but hearing people shorten other people’s names all the time: Richard = Dick, Christina = Christina, Margaret = Maggie. So your argument just doesn’t hold up.

  95. Oops – Christina = Chris!

  96. @Christina
    Christina can also be Tina. lol

    We had a deaf lady working temp in our office, she used to flex a bicep for my name, or her name for me. I was told because I was basically the biggest and strongest on our crew. In this day and age, that flexing gesture may be taken as a challenge, by people like York. Unfortunately I do not know sign, near as much as I would like.

    There is a football movie called The Replacements, in which a deaf player is featured, at times. He hands a note on a napkin to a teammate, at one point. “One good thing about being deaf.. it makes it easier to ignore the a–holes.”

    Almost makes me jealous.

  97. I can only second waht others have said: it seems like York has lost most of his marbles.

    WHEN there’s a specific sign available for a name, it’s used. If not it’s finger-spelled alphabetically. There are curse words in sign language (ASL or any other), there’s slang, kids and youth can sign so fast and different from deaf adults that the adults can’t follow along. Just like in any language it evolves. It’s language, communication. It’s like someone would come down on written and spoken english and decide that some words in general conversation can’t be used. This is nothing short of trying to create a kind of functional analphabetism.

    That the school district even decided to try to make this an issue shows just how out of touch they are, and what they have tried to do exactly. Now it’s trending – which they certainly didn’t count on – and they are making themselves out to be idiots, the more they are trying to back-track their earlier statements, the more pathetic it becomes.

    I really hope NAD helps the family. If for nothing else just to underscore the seriousness of the issue, just not discrimination of disabled but also of freedom of speech. Double whammo and goal set match.

  98. Big, brave administrators afraid of a three-year-old’s fingers. I have a finger I’d like to give them.

  99. Addition: NAD will help the family if necessary. They issued this statement http://nad.org/news/2012/8/nad-condemns-schools-ban-name-sign-three-year-old-boy

    @Warren. I’ve had my name signed as you sign soap. It’s a looong story behind that one but I find it neat. Sign language is amazing, there are tutorials available online where you can get some idea. Every person who signs has their own way, just like in any language.

  100. Thanks Jess,
    Oooops, sorry didnt mean to shorten your name.

    Ya we missed her when she left to have kids. Wasn’t the same without getting slapped in the back of the head half a dozen times a day. If we were talking and I would forget and turn my head so my lips weren’t easy to read, she would cuff me in the back of the head.

    I think I am going to find those tutorials, thanks.

  101. I agree this is not only Ludicrous – it’s gone Plaid !

    These letters can also resemble a Gun and a cross hair. I demand the school stops using these dangerous letters Right Now !

    F J L P T X Y Z

    b d f h i j k l p q r t x y z

    That lower case R is especially frightening.

  102. What total idiots.

    Here in New Zealand, NZ sign language (NZSL) is an official language, so it kind of boggles the mind that a school could stop a kid signing anything with a recognized sign language (well apart from things that would get a hearing student speaking them punished obviously lol)

  103. My response, sent moments ago:
    Since you would like to prevent Hunter from using the sign for his name since it looks like a gun, I would be interested in knowing if you were also forcing children named Dick to use a different name at school since their name is a reference to the male genitalia, which is offensive to many people. What about families named Cocks who’s names are also an offensive colloquial word for the same area of a male’s anatomy. Or the homophone Cox?

  104. Pffft, the sign doesn’t even look like a gun (well, two guns, I am not familiar with SEE, but his parents seemed to sign it with both hands whenever they did). (although, my partner, who also signs Auslan, just pointed out, the sign is more similar to the sign for The Wiggles than any gun he has ever seen).

  105. Sent the following comment to his school:
    I just read the story about Hunter Spanjer not being allowed to used the sign for his name at school. What a sad place this world has become when the people we send our children to for education, in hopes that our children would gain wisdom, have become so foolish. I am fairly certain when they wrote the policy regardig bringing an “instrument” to school they did not intend to include hands of children who have no other form of communicationg. It’s demoralizing for this child and his family that the school would suggest that this child change his name (considering he is deaf that is what this amounts to) in order to please the school. Perhaps there should be a list of forbidden names for deaf children provided to hospitals to prevent this sort of problem from occuring in the future.

  106. Absolutely disgusting. Wrote a letter, shared on my FB.

  107. So “hunter” is also a shade of green. The ASL sign for “green” is made with a signed letter G which, for all those concerned, COULD also be seen as a hand shape similar to a gun…this could go on and on. It is stupid. ASL is a language. Signs are symbols/representations just like words. The rule does not apply to people able to speak the name Hunter. Using a sign is no different. If a teacher called, “Hunter, please come sit down,” kids would know the teacher meant the child, not an actual hunter….right?

  108. Sadly, this isn’t the only incident of a deaf student being prohibited from using sign language in a school setting. From April, Sign Language Ban Imposed on NJ Girl – http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93532&page=1#.UD2FwaM2f4s

    I think all these principals, teachers, etc. should be required to take sensitivity training by wearing ear plugs for a day and seeing what it must be like to try to communicate wordlessly.

  109. Reblogged this on Wolf Howls and commented:
    Hunter, a deaf three-year-old, told signing his name violates school’s gun policy

  110. Silver Fang,
    The NJ girl’s story seems alot like revenge for the lawsuit over the bottle rocket incident, leading to her hearing impairment. Ya think?

  111. Please, everyone who reads this–take a moment to send an email response to the school district, using the link provided in the story. I did. I told the district that I am going to publicize this as much as I can, and to send the story to every newspaper and news station that I can. If even a few papers or news channels spread this story, perhaps the school district will “come under enough fire” to reverse its decision. This is discrimination and just plain stupidity.

  112. Jack Sheard is the spokesman for the school board. He is on facebook, and doesn’t hide anything. Guess he doesn’t care who see’s what.

    I am wondering if his sons are trying to make finger guns in the photo or are they flashing gang signs?

    Or are they just being kids?

    Just thinking how he would like to go thru what Hunter’s family is.

  113. A link on Jack Sheard’s facebook page, leads to a story saying they are not calling for any type of change to anyone’s name. Can you say bullshit? This is the same man that is on tape “We are working with the parents….”

  114. I assume anyone named “Gunderson” or “Gunther” would also have to change their name. What about “Logan”, spoken out loud that sounds bad too.

    For that matter, can you read “Oliver Twist”? We wouldn’t want anyone shocked to hear the name “Fagin” spoken aloud–or even in their heads!

    King Arthur stories would be out, with “Morgan la Fey”–that has the “gun” sound too.

    We’d have to remove any burgundy crayons, of course.

    No “Johnny Tremaine”, no “Huckleberry Finn”, no “Courage of Sarah Noble”; they all have GUNS!!!

    These administrators are scarecrow people: if they only had a brain!

  115. […] have taken up Hunter’s cause as well. A commenter on Lenore Skenazy’s site Free-Range Kids asked, “Whatever happened to common sense and […]

  116. Sorry Alice, I’m still not convinced. The article says the school doesn’t require Hunter to change his name in the title, but in the body text, there is still that dreaded line “Sheard told NCN the school is working with the family.”

    If the school was really working with the family to fix it, they’d have a press release out to apologize…

  117. Heaven knows what this school would do with names from other cultures. My husband has a friend by the name of Wee Wee Chin, and Whaka, a very common prefix for Maori names and verbs, sounds very close to the ‘f’ word. Time we enrolled a few international students there…..

  118. Alice, it’s a good link and good additional information. Thanks. But one of the things I noticed is that they keep talking about ASL, which is NOT Hunter’s language. Hunter’s is SEE, which is Signed Exact English. This article made me a little nervous that they’re going to insist Hunter sign ASL instead of SEE.

  119. One should also note that the school administrators are very superstitious, evincing a strong belief in sympathetic magic. The ones involved in this decision should be removed from their duties until they have undergone a training course that includes discussions of (a) religious freedom (since they’re trying to impose their religion on others), (b) sensitivity to others, and (c) critical thinking (the real kind, not the left-wing substitute).

  120. This issue will only be put to rest when Hunter and his family have received a public apology. If the members of the school board involved do this, they may be worthy of a second chance. If they do not have the moral fibre to apologize, then they do not belong in the positions they hold, and should be dismissed.

  121. SEE sign for hunter looks like a “gun” (not like any other gun I have seen), ASL sign for hunter also looks like a gun (even more so). Guess they will have to go with the Auslan sign for hunter (which is more like “looking” – we don’t go “hunting” in Australia, we go “shooting”. Hunting is what you do when looking for something). Perhaps everyone calling it ASL is just because they aren’t realizing there are multiple languages? Even in Australia the signs with Auslan are different, and it is still the same language technically! (one hilarious sign in one area means “Want to go make out?”, whereas in another “I am thirsty, where are the drinks?” -I think, I will have to check that with the one that signs fluently here! But it is something like that)

  122. […] So, this story is EVERYWHERE, it might as well be here. I first heard about it yesterday on Free-Range Kids. Tons of my facebook friends are talking about it, and it was all over twitter yesterday as […]

  123. One final reply to Gabe,
    For someone limited to sign language as their primary form of communication, giving the middle finger as a form of protest against discrimination and ignorance, is perfectly acceptable to me.
    Why the middle finger, because whether you are sign literate or not, the meaning is understood.
    So signing Hunter, then followed by the middle finger becomes, “My name is Hunter, and if you do not like it, to damn bad. Suck it up, Princess!”
    Would I allow my child to do this, under these conditions, you are damn skippy, I would.

    I again refer to the monologue by Al Pacino, as Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman. Basically schools be careful of the men and women you are creating. They are our future, and what kind of people do you want leading us into the future. Ones that will sell themselves out, for money, or fear of reprisals. Or ones that will stand and fight for what they believe in.

    With all the rules, regulations, restrictions and 0 tolerances in our schools today, we are creating a generation of adults with weak wills. Do not make waves, follow the system, accept your restrictions for the greater good, keep your disagreements to yourself and so on. I am not saying that our children are weak minded, I am saying that society is doing its best to make them weak minded.

    Myself, I am proud to have kids that think for themselves, and will not hesitate to express their disagreement with anyone in any position of authority, when they feel they need to. It is something they do with my permission, blessing and full support.

  124. Here’s an update on this story, from the local newspaper. The school officials won’t discuss Hunter’s case specifically, citing privacy issues. But they have issued a statement indicating they have not asked any hearing impaired student to change his/her name.

    Another interesting factor – the father isn’t angry with the school. And doesn’t really care for all the angry/hurtful comments that have been generated worldwide by this situation. (See line buried near bottom of article.)

    I didn’t realize when I first skimmed thru Lenore’s blog that the school district in question is only 20 miles from where I grew up. That is, until I did my daily check of obits in the local paper and saw this article on the front page:

    http://www.theindependent.com/news/local/deaf-boy-s-conflict-with-g-i-school-district-goes/article_da546420-f19a-11e1-9f5a-0019bb2963f4.html

  125. “@pentamom – as a former resident of Texas, I must sadly inform you that the state is very much against critical thinking skills.”

    Can we stop with the “I don’t like the way Texas does things therefore I will impose my view of Texas on the reading of that passage rather than the intended sense of it?”

    Fine. You all hate the intellectual climate in Texas and have the worst possible opinion of the Texas GOP. Duly noted.

    That doesn’t change the fact that “Higher Order Thinking Skills” is a specific thing, a specific program, not a concept equivalent to “critical thinking.” A fair and honest reading, no matter who wrote it, is that the document specifically opposes a specific program, not an entire concept. Maybe they do oppose the concept, but you can’t get it from that document.

    And BTW, I’m from Pennsylvania and don’t know enough about HOTS to have an opinion of it.

  126. @pentamom: that wasn’t my point… What concerns me is the lunatic fringe has taken over and staked out extremist positions, which are now being codified. For example: Anti-gun bans leading to a deaf kid being told he can’t use his name, anti-drug campaigns leading to kids not being able to apply sunblock at school, anti-science campaigns that conflate religious beliefs with science, and so on. In that particular case of the Texas GOP it was clear from the chairman’s comments that his main concern was that schools not challenge a student’s “fixed beliefs” and “challenge parental authority”.

  127. @pentamom – dontcha know we’re all a bunch of inbred rednecks that drive trucks and are missing teeth and brains?

  128. Man oh man, I am glad to have my kids in school here, in Ontario. It appears that even though they try to be dictators at times, they do not get away with it nearly as much as elsewhere.

    I was reading an article where some states mandate flu shots, or your kids cannot attend school. Wow!!!! Talk about bullcrap. A school system dictate what medical treatments you give your kids.

    They have tried it here with other vaccinations, but our doctors are quick to remind them, to not even try to dictate treatment of one of their patients.

  129. You can contact the School without having to use the Contact US form (which has been shut down several times)…here’s the info.
    Dr. Robert W. Winter
    Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools

    Kneale Administration Building
    123 South Webb Road, Box 4904
    Grand Island, NE 68802-4904
    • Phone: 308 385-5900
    • Fax: 308 385-5949

  130. “In that particular case of the Texas GOP it was clear from the chairman’s comments that his main concern was that schools not challenge a student’s “fixed beliefs” and “challenge parental authority”.

    Of course they shouldn’t. Schools are the employees of the taxpayers and servants of the parents, not the other way around.

    That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t expose the kids to a variety of viewpoints, but no, it is NOT their job to undermine the parents.

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