Society

Nebraska School Says Deaf Boy's Name Sign Is Too Similar to 'Gun'

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A school in Nebraska told a 3-year-old deaf student that he must change the way he signs his name because it looks too similar to “gun” – a gesture that violates the school’s weapons policy.

Hunter Spanjer’s personalized name sign was registered with Signing Exact English (SEE), a form of American Sign Language. The sign requires an extended index finger, similar to a gun sign, but is otherwise completely different. The nuances of finger placement in sign are essential.

Grand Island School officials said the “Weapons in Schools” Board Policy 8470 forbids “any instrument … that looks like a weapon.”

“He’s deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy,” said Hunter’s father, Brian Spanjer. “It’s a symbol. It’s an actual sign, a registered sign, through SEE.”

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Hunter was asked to change the way he signs his name in August 2012. Now his parents expect the National Association for the Deaf to weigh in on the matter. They believe their son has a right to sign his name his way.

“We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child,” said Jack Sheard, a Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson.

Other Grand Islanders disputed the school’s claim.

"It's his name," said Grand Island resident Dana Schwieger. "It's not like he's going to bring a gun to school when he's 3 years old." 

Sources: Independent Review Journal, 1011now.com