Nebraska School Officials Allegedly Ask Parents Of Deaf Toddler To Change His Signed Name Because It Looks Like A Finger Gun

There is a truly bizarre story about of Nebraska where the parents of three-and-a-half year old Hunter Spanjer have been told that their son is violating the school’s policy against guns in school by making his fingers look like a gun. I have previously written (and here) about the lunacy of zero tolerance rules, including the gun drawing and finger gun violations. The difference in this case is that Hunter is deaf and the motion is the sign language for his name which involves crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down. When the situation was explained to Grand Island Public Schools administrators, they came up with a solution that only a bureaucrat would view as reasonable. According to the parents, they were asked to change their son’s sign name. There is now a Facebook page (shown here) to let Hunter keep his name.

If true, this sets a new low in the blind and senseless application of these rules. I still remain amazed by the discipline meted out to kids using finger guns or drawing figures. However, the level of irrationality in this allegation is simply breathtaking.

Administrators in this area seem to relish the absolute application of these rules as if zero tolerance means zero thought. The assumption appears to be that “I cannot get into trouble by being too strict.” The wonderful thing about a policy described as “zero tolerance” is that it can excuse teachers from having to make logical judgments. For anyone to even suggest changing this boy’s signed name shows a complete disinterest in actual facts and equities of the case. Once again, it teaches our students to accept senseless and arbitrary authority — a dangerous lesson for future citizens.

Source: Yahoo

55 thoughts on “Nebraska School Officials Allegedly Ask Parents Of Deaf Toddler To Change His Signed Name Because It Looks Like A Finger Gun

  1. The school officials should be fired for being as dumb as Hell.

    Oh wait, that’s the other story, isn’t it?

    Or is it?

  2. Sheeze! Some officials take this big brother crap way too far. The person who tried to dictate this to the child & his parents should be fired on the spot. His/her paranoia should not be allowed in any school. good grief! These people are ‘battschitt’ crazy.

  3. If you are confused by zero tolerance policies just remember this simple rule: zero tolerance equals zero intelligence.

    Should you trust your child to a school administrator who cannot tell the difference between aspirin and crack, between heroin and head ache powder. Of course not. These administrators really have to be removed for the safety of the children.

    I would like to be the first to demand legislation that would stipulate that zero tolerance policies are compelling evidence of professional incompetence.

    Lets get these people away from our children – the sooner the better!

  4. Professor: “When the situation was explained to Grand Island Pubic Schools administrators,”

    “PUBIC” school? LOL, that may be the Freudian slip that wins the Internets today! And yes, they are acting like dic*s. :-)

  5. Why don’t they just demand that he listen….. And speak like the rest of his classmates….. That’ll teach those pushy parents…..

  6. Doesn’t the school system have a problem on several levels.

    As a point of philosophy, shouldn’t every child have an expectation that his or her name will be respected even if that name sounds funny or makes many of the rest of us feel uncomfortable?

    Some school systems have regulations recognizing diversity. This case would seem to fit right into paradigm that all children deserve respect.

    But perhaps most compelling is the requirement that schools systems make reasonable accommodation for disabilities.

    I think this school system may have some real problems.

  7. “The difference in this case is that Hunter is deaf and the motion is the sign language for his name which involves crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down.”


    Seems to me the Nebraska school’s complaint is with sign language itself. Their complaint is properly made where sign language is taught. Which is, of course, another school. So why should this child suffer from inter-school squabbling? Well it’s the heartland isn’t it? Home of American compassion?

  8. There might be some codgers on this blog who might have lived in Saint Louis fifty years ago who might recall the Herbie story. It is insightful for what could be done to change the kid’s name here to satisfy the school and at the same time satisfy the kids and parents who hate the teachers, Principal (none dare call him a Pal), the Superintendent and the Board of Education.
    There was a local TV kid show called Howdy Doody. They showed cartoons and had these live characters like Clarabelle the Clown and they had a group of school kids on set for each live show. No taping so no editing in those days. The kids would each get ten seconds of fame. It would go like this: Clarabelle: “Bobby”. And Bobby would say the same thing. “Hi, mom, hi dad, hi everybody.” One day this kid is in about third in line and it goes like this: “Hi mom, hi dad, hi everybody. And this is for you HERBIE!” And with that he holds up the middle finger. The Bird. Well, from then on out in Saint Louis the middle finger flash was The Herbie and the term Flipped Him The Herbie meant flippin the bird, which meant by implication saying F You.
    Anyone on the blog recall this?

    So, the kids in this school can nickname this kid Herbie. When Herbie signs in to class in sign language he can flip them the middle finger. No name, no blame. Oh, “no name, no blame” is another Saint Louis story having to do with KATZ Radio on the blues show live show.

    Everyone who sees the Principal on the street can convey a message by simple sign language. The Bird is the Word folks. Oh, there is a song by that name from around 1963.

  9. The stupid, it burns. Over in North Carolina, a first grade boy was expelled and charged with sexual harassment for giving a little girl a kiss on the cheek. The girl did not complain; it was the teacher who saw the incident. When that story hit the intetoobz, the school and legal authorities were forced to backtrack.

    Then there was the grade schooler whose mother had included a plastic picnic knife in his lunchbox so he could spread his peanut butter and jelly. The same kind of “knife” we put on the food trays of the inmates at the prison where I used to consult. The kid was expelled from the public school system permanently for “bringing a knife to school.”

    Zero tolerance seems to translate to zero common sense.

  10. By the way, school boards set these inane policies and force officials to administer them. If we can blame the officials for lack of common sense in enforcement of the policies, can’t we also castigate the elected or appointed yahoos who dream this stuff up? Democracy isn’t perfect as we all know.

  11. Asinine

    So what would happen if a foreign exchange student arrived and had a name such as Gunnar (Sweden) Gundar (Denmark) or Günther (Germany)? This name means Fighter, Soldier or Attacker. Should he be foreced to change his name also? According to the school’s rules the answer is yes.

    Probably equally concerning to these officials would be a student named “Hartmut” which means literally Hard Courage / Pride . They would certainly perceive him to be a threat. He might actually stand up against them. The horror.

  12. Justice Holmes, that is a stupid statement. Schools have zero tolerance for anything… Including, as this article shows, “finger guns” that look nothing like guns.

  13. Darren,
    Clan Skene is one of the oldest of the Scottish Highland clans. Skeen/Skene (Sgian in Gaelic) means “knife.” I guess those who actually carry the hereditary Clan name would be in trouble as well.

    We can’t even talk about members of Clan Gunn at a public school, I suppose. Their Clan motto is, Aut Pax Aut Bellum. Translated, the motto means, “Stand ready for peace or war.”

  14. I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance. This insane policy is based on the false premise that treating everyone the same is somehow fair. This is just example 5,592 of how false that assumption is. I’m keeping count.

  15. I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. If fingers can be banned under ‘zero tolerance’, why aren’t they expelling all children with fingers? And firing all teachers and administrator who have fingers? You may say I am being silly, but I am no sillier than anyone who thinks a three year old’s fingers can be mistaken for a weapon, no matter how the child moves them. Oh, and doesn’t the capital letter ‘L’ look like a gun?

  16. The parents group should sing the song called The Name Game– to the Bored of Education. It would go:
    Hunter, Hunter bo bunter, banana fanna fo mutter,
    Fee fi mo butter,
    If the first two letters are ever the same, ya drop them both and say the name…

    Then everyone in the choir gives the Bored of Education the finger.

  17. ron,
    Unless that was snark, you do know, of course, that the words “blind” and “senseless” have multiple meanings, such as the following:


    Unwilling or unable to perceive or understand: They were blind to their children’s faults. He was blind to all arguments.

    Not characterized or determined by reason or control: blind tenacity; blind chance.

    Not having or based on reason or intelligence; absolute and unquestioning: She had blind faith in his fidelity.


    Lacking all consciousness or awareness: a blind stupor.

    Destitute or deprived of sensation; unconscious.

    Lacking mental perception, appreciation, or comprehension.

    Stupid or foolish, as persons or actions.

    Nonsensical or meaningless, as words: This letter is either cryptic or senseless.

  18. “Zero tolerance” means rigidity means no exceptions means “authoritarianism” means fanaticism. Stupid, ignorant adults. I sometimes wonder if I’m going to live long enough to see the societal attitude-pendulum swing back toward rationality and compassion where there are exceptions to every rule, especially the “remaining” zero-tolerance rules. You have the right to sign your name the way you want, kid!

  19. Apart from the zero tolerance nonsense as applied to a 3-year old’s fingers, I think some of these administrators need to sign up for a class in sign language

  20. Signe, We have zero tolerance from mindless administration and “dumb ass” from union teachers. What I find noteworthy in this microcosm of the Turley blog, are the folks who support the staus quo of this failed bureaucracy. They scream @ any notion of a problem in the system, and are no where to be found in this debate. If they do appear the meme will be “bad parents,” The meme is not w/o merit, but is almost totally a diversion from their failure. The silence is it were.

  21. nick, you must have read this thread with your opposite-glasses on. A quick re-read will reveal the error of your perception and generalized snark regarding the visitors to this thread.

  22. pete, LOL!

    lottakatz, Please reread what I said. My point is that the apologists for the status quo are conspicuous by their absence. I’m genuinely surprised they have not chosen to rebut the common sense spoken on this thread. I may have not been clear. As we all have to sometimes say, “It was clear in my mind.”

  23. Mike A.,

    That’s right. Zero tolerance policies mean that administrators don’t have to use common sense and good judgment to make decisions–they just have to follow the rules. Makes life so much easier for them. If someone complains–all they have to say is: “I was just following the rules.”

  24. I am a seeing eye dog and there is a new seeing eye dog in our dog pack and his name is Hunter. We are teaching him sign language (we call it “paw paw”) so that he can stand in for the deaf guy dog. Coincidence. But we wish this kid well in life and hope that he learns to flip the bird when he goes by the Principal’s office at school.

  25. Nick, I really don’t know who you are referring to, srsly, very few people that visit here are happy with the status quo be they on the right or left. Without specifics in your posting your tone struck me as overly broad and unfair.

    I think people here operate on more than one level simultaneously, I know that I do: what I’d like/what oughta’ be, what we have and an assessment that things could be a lot worse. I can argue (or rant) from any of those positions in just about any comment; which position I take just depends on how a posting strikes me and how I’m feeling.

    We are though in full agreement regarding Pete’s comment. :-)

  26. itchinbaydog, Bravo.

    rafflaw, “attack on teachers.” Please tell me where I attracked teachers? I think others have “attacked” teachers more than I. Curious how you focused on me. Trust me, when I attack there is no doubt.

  27. Remember we are only hearing one side of the story.
    It is possible the parents are correct.

    However, another possibility is that Hunter’s use of Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) is the issue. The school uses the much more common American Sign Language (ASL). It is quite possible that the school would prefer he use the language that is used and understood by the teachers.

  28. Jeff’s comment about the language change seems to be in alignment as to what the school is now CLAIMING to be the case:

    However, I cannot help but think of a former row over language similar to the article below, which was where a French speaking blind student in an English speaking school in Canada was initially denied admission to the school because his guide dog understood French Commands.

    There was much outrage at the school’s original banning him from the school

  29. My first grade teacher was a German expat likely an ex Nazi who harassed me for being Jewish… reading this brings her memory up in my mind. Even though I have an advanced education my attitude towards education has always been dismal. I wonder why?

  30. Guard dogs and law enforcement dogs are often trained to commands in languages other than English. French and German are most commonly used. That keeps the bad guys from giving commands that might confuse the dogs. At any rate, the language of the commands needs to be something the locals would be less likely to know.

  31. I’m assuming that this innocent child uses ‘American Sign Language’ to communicate. I’d advise the school where he learned ASL to begin teaching the ‘Middle finger Salute’ to be used in Nebraska schools…….

  32. OS, they hung Eichmann, but not with a gun!

    Zara, civilized folks prefer to hold up index, middle and ring fingers together, quietly advising others to “read between the lines”…

  33. Certainly the little hoodlum should spell his entire name out as opposed to the sign that is his name. And I would be in court having a legal name change to I m u s t s p e l l o u t m y n a m e b e c a u s e b e a u r a c r a t s f e e l i s h o u l d b e m a d e t o f e e l t h e n a m e m y p a r e n t s g a v e m e i s s o m e h o w s h a m e f u l h u n t e r , Oh and Every one involved in the case must start spelling(in sign) out his full name every time it is used

  34. <<<The school officials could have simply asked Hunter to spell his name.

    no, they would suspend him for that also since it still resembles a weapon and can't be pronounced without sounding like a weapon. "Hunter".

    The school principal even said just saying the word "Gun" is NOT allowed in that school. And WILL get you suspended. Well, guess what?

    My distant cousins' surname is "Gunn". You can guess what would happen if they all attended that school.




  35. <<<So what would happen if a foreign exchange student arrived and had a name such as Gunnar (Sweden) Gundar (Denmark) or Günther (Germany)? This name means Fighter, Soldier or Attacker. Should he be foreced to change his name also? According to the school’s rules the answer is yes.

    It doesn't even have to be foreign. My distant cousins' surname is "Gunn".

    The principal of the school has already stated that just saying the word "gun" is NOT allowed at that school and WILL get you suspended.

    So it is very obvious that all of my distant cousins' with the surname "Gunn" would be suspended from that school just for having the last name of "Gunn".

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