You Read it Here First: The Deaf Pre-Schooler Story

Hi Readers! Just had to crow. The story about Hunter, the deaf pre-schooler who was told to change his name because it violated the school’s anti-gun policy, was sent to us by a gal in Hunter’s neck of the woods — Nebraska — on Monday night, which is when I posted and tweeted  it. By Tuesday afternoon, the story had gone ’round the world. Google it — you can’t miss it. On Yahoo’s home page alone it got 17,000+ comments. And despite the fact neither this site nor the one where I’m guest-posting this month, The Agitator, are getting credit (see this),   Free-Range Kids was, as far as I can tell, the first to bring it to national attention.

What thrills me about that is knowing that the press is peeking in on us, and ready to take up the anti-stupidity standard. It’s also thrilling to see how obvious it is to most humans that Zero Tolerance too often means Zero Brains. Hunter’s story may go on to achieve “The Lady Who Sued McDonald’s For Hot Coffee” status (but don’t start debating it here!), used as a sort of shorthand for, “Come on — under the pretense of caring, this is just INSANE.”

We could use a story like that, because it is time to re-think so many schools rules and time to remember our kids just aren’t that vulnerable. For me it is also time to thank YOU, readers, for always sending in the best examples of what’s wrong with the way we treat kids, and what’s right.

Keep it up! – L.

29 Responses

  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this story! I saw it first here.

  2. The devil is always in the details and I have to object to your equating the McDonalds suit with this Name change BS. Here is the details of the lawsuit if you need a refresher:'s_Restaurants
    but it basically comes down to McDonalds ignoring many cases of really bad burns from their coffee and forcing employees to serve the coffee at temperature that are higher than is safe. This is negligence and I’m happy to see a a company like McDonalds get slapped for wrongdoing like that.

    It is easy to miss the important details if you just read the headlines and the devil is always in the details.

  3. “It is easy to miss the important details if you just read the headlines and the devil is always in the details.”

    Like where Lenore said, “(but don’t start debating it here!)”?

    How do the details of the suit make it an invalid comparison on the level of “this is a big story that will keep getting talked about” which is clearly what Lenore was referring to?

  4. Oh Lenore, your blog was quoted in the Huffington Post article I saw last night that had the story…and even one of the comments was quoted 🙂

  5. Don’t START debating it? Wait, was there a break where the good people in the comments ever stopped debating it? I thought it was just on hold until the next time it could be wedged into the conversation. (Appparently right from the start this time.)

    And yes, it is pretty remarkable that it’s gotten this spread. I should’ve cited you when I crossposted….

  6. Pentamom, I’d actually like to hear what Lenore actually meant. I don’t read “Hunter’s story may go on to achieve “The Lady Who Sued McDonald’s For Hot Coffee” status (but don’t start debating it here!), used as a sort of shorthand for, “Come on — under the pretense of caring, this is just INSANE.”” to mean “this is a big story that will keep getting talked about.”

    What I get from it is that the school is insane to force Hunter to change his name, just like Liebeck was insane to sue McDonald’s. It seems to be perpetuating the idea that the hot coffee lawsuit was a frivolous case, just as the school forcing Hunter to change his name under zero tolerance laws is frivolous.

    If she does mean “this is a big story that will keep getting talked about.” it should be reworded so the story is a bit clearer. I mean, we’re only five comments in as I type this, and at least two people- 40% of commenters- are not reading it as that. There is clearly some confusion.

  7. I also read it as the McDonald’s suit was insane/frivolous. I am assuming that is what Lenore meant, although I could be mistaken.

  8. Thanks Erin, but that’s how I read it too. Maybe it’s not what was meant, in which case I apologize for jumping up onto my soap box so quickly.

  9. This is why that genius chimpanzee is smarter than most high school students. When the world is more involved with their own pleasure and wants to be entertained more than educated we will sink into a state of disappear.

  10. I can’t believe it. I noticed this story a couple of days ago, and I didn’t send it to Lenore, as I have other stories that I thought may be of interest to us Free Range advocates. I actually didn’t think it worthy of being sent! Boy was I way wrong!

    But that is okay. In fact, in a way, it’s encouraging, because it helps to illustrate to me that there are plenty of persons out there who have this free-range outlook & are on the lookout for such examples of lunacy. Sometimes it feels as if I’m the only sane person on the planet, or at least in my area, and the more instances where I see that such is NOT the case, the more I’m encouraged.

    And yes, I myself have, at times, whenever I’ve been frustrated, have used the “hang gun gesture” in various ways to express my frustration, figuring it to be a perfectly acceptable outlet for “venting” and not at all thinking of it as a form of communicating a threat, and I intend to continue to do so. Whenever I’m riding with someone & we’re stuck behind a slow driver, I’ve used the gesture as we passed someone because, frankly, slow drivers tick me off greatly. I would NEVER actually pull a gun on them (I don’t even own a pistol in fact), but like George Carlin once said “don’t you wish those cute little headlights on your car were actually sub-machine guns” (or something like that, it’s from “Carlin on Campus”). I’ve pointed it to my head to simulate shooting myself if, say, the gas pump at the gas station keeps acting up and causing delays.

    But yes, we’ve gotten so touchy–the dummies have anyway–that someone simply using an accepted form of sign language to communicate their name is told they can’t. What a load of bull-feathers.


  11. Let’s hope the poor kid never tries to order a coke to drink in the school cafeteria. The sign (as does the name “Coca Cola”) refers to the fact that Coke used to contain actual cocaine in trace amounts and is signed by miming a needle injection to the upper arm using an “L” shaped hand.

  12. Off topic, but, AAAARRRRGH! –“In my town, I have several friends who live across the street from an elementary school, and they all have their children ride the bus because it’s safer than crossing the street.”

  13. @Arianne: that blog won’t let me post, but here’s some info. If you live in the US, contact the feds:

  14. If you put coffee in your lap, you’re an idiot. The fact that your idiocy should have resulted in a smaller injury than it did does not change the fact that you got hurt by doing something stupid. Blaming someone else for not protecting you from your own stupidity is the essence of frivolity.

    It is a company’s responsibility to ensure that a product does not injure if used correctly, and to make it as easy to possible to use it correctly. It is not the responsibility of a chainsaw manufacturer to apply a “do not lick” label. It is not the responsibility of a toaster manufacturer to tell you not to use it in the bath. If an injury could have been prevented simply by the user not doing something mind-numbingly stupid, then the injury is the fault of the user – period.

  15. Yan, I believe she is in Canada…any thoughts there?

  16. I’m not going to be ready to accept a pat on the back until that school reverses their incredibly stupid position.

  17. I know that I read it first on which listed it at 7:55am on the same day your post listed without a time. I’d forwarded it immediately to a friend whos family name is Hunter. Declaring “First” on the internet is rarely better than troll bait.

    I like your general message and have recommended your blog to friends many times.

  18. We were asked by the owner of this blog NOT to debate the McDonalds coffee incident. Could we please not?

  19. Interesting post here about the story and how it broke. The school is claiming that they never did any such thing.

  20. I hope that this is all just a big misunderstanding. It’s weird that the school official in the video would say only one sentence to the camera, especially in that smirky annoying way.

  21. I have an idea. (I’m going to preface this with I KNOW this is ridiculous and absurd. I’m attempting to use sarcasm to show how silly the district’s “request” is.)
    The parents should agree to change their son’s sign language name…. **IF** the district requires ALL children with any portion of their name being Hunter, Remington, Smith, Ruger, Wesson, Colt, Heckler, Koch, Harrison, Richardson, Browning, Winchester, Benelli, Springfield, etc. (essentially ANY name that is involved in the manufacture of guns). Oh, and how about Bowie or Buck or Gerber (they’re KNIVES!)? Hey, and while we’re at it, let’s ban all literature by Browning! Can’t have the kiddies exposed to that name!

  22. @Michael: Having worked behind the scenes in TV (though not directly for a news program), I feel qualified to say that Sheard likely said much more than that one sentence to the camera, but that the snippet that was used was the most potentially inflammatory, and that’s why the (presumed) remainder of the footage occupies the cutting room floor.

    If this is at heart an argument over ASL or SEE, it’s a completely different beast than “his name resembles a gun so we want him to change it”. I do wish that the school would stop hiding behind “can’t talk about a specific student without permission” because, frankly, anything they say that doesn’t address the exact nature of the complaint from the school’s point of view will just fan the flames of outrage.

    *Note: I am not defending the school; I simply want to hear the entire story rather than one side of it.

  23. I hope that this turns out to be the case that topples zero-tolerance once and for all. I hope it comes out how many innocent students have been hurt under the guise of safety. How many 17-year-olds expelled for using a paring knife for its designated purpose, or bringing their father’s truck to school without realizing that his gun rack was in the back. How many children consigned to unnecessary counseling and extra supervision for making “disturbing” drawings or creative writing, despite the parents trying to explain that it was inspired by some movie or TV show the family had just watched.Zero tolerance sucks. Any mechanism that attempts to apply one inflexible rule to everyone that can’t be adjusted for individual circumstances sucks (yeah not a big fan of mandatory minimum sentences either). Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end. Let’s hope schools everywhere say, “we don’t want to be in this position of banning a deaf child from signing his name, let’s take another look at our policiies.”

    We can dream, can’t we?

  24. I’m sorry, but you blew it with the hot coffee reference. The woman received third degree burns that required skin grafts. She wasn’t driving at the time. The car was parked and she was in the passenger seat. Normal hot coffee would not do that. The coffee temperature was extreme and McDonald’s records showed lots of payouts to other people for similar injuries. I’m all for the free range concept of recognizing the difference between actual danger and perception of danger. Similarly, there is a difference between legitimate liability for repeated harm versus the fear of liability that pervades our culture. Unfortunately, you’ve chosen a bad example to illustrate you point by highlighting the McDonald’s coffee case. In many ways, the case proves the exact opposite point that you’d like to make. I highly recommend watching the HBO documentary “Hot Coffee” for a better understanding of this subject. It completely changed my opinion of the case. I came to understand that much of what was presented by the media did not reflect the true facts of the case. It isn’t that different than the way the media portrays stranger danger for kids. The facts don’t matter as much as sensationalism does.

  25. Lenore, I think it’s pretty clear that mentioning the “hot coffee” lawsuit and then telling us “not to debate it here” was asking for trouble — your readers are way too feisty to go for that! I was going to post a rebuttal, but I see lots of others got there first.

    And yeah, telling a kid he has to change his own name because of “zero tolerance” is ridiculous.

  26. Obi-Wandreas, this was a 79 year old woman sitting in a parked car in the passenger seat, trying to take the lid off of her coffee to add cream. Please don’t call her stupid. She was doing what most of us would have done. She didn’t have a table to sit it on. I doubt every time you order a hot drink you cautiously set the drink down far away from you and find somewhere to pull over with a flat surface to lay the drink down before opening it and adding whatever you need to add. It should not have been served so hot as to cause 3rd degree burns and skin grafting. McDonalds was warned of this several times. This was their fault. Not an elderly woman’s. Please be kinder.

  27. Maybe, having opened Pandora’s box, Lenore should start a separate thread for McDonald’s coffee debates, so that enthusiasts will leave this one alone.
    (Maybe she could remove all the McDonald’s posts from this thread and put them at the start of a separate McDonald’s thread.)

  28. Yep, we read Hunter’s story here and sent a complaint to the school board… all the way from Australia. Have also sent it to my friend who teaches sign language so more replies to follow!

  29. We’ve been all around the McDonald’s block multiple times. No one is going to change his mind on it. That’s precisely why Lenore asked it not be re-opened. Maybe those who think that Lenore’s reference to it was ill-advised in the context should just give her a demerit and leave it alone. I can assure everyone here who is arguing that the story is not as it has been popularly represented, that the denizens of this site have already been informed of that. There’s no new ground to cover, no information for the uninformed to learn, no point in creating another thread to say the same things another 200 times. Just a lot of entrenched opinion that will go nowhere.

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