Hunter Spanjer is deaf. As a result, the 3-year-old boy has developed a certain hand gesture to sign his name that involves crossing his forefinger with his index finger and moving his hand up and down.
To Hunter’s family and friends in Grand Island, Nebraska, the gesture simply represents his name. To the preschool in which Hunter attends, it’s a controversial symbol that violates the district’s weapons policy.
Consequently, the school has asked the parents to change the manner in which Hunter signs his name or to have him spell it out, letter by letter.
“About two weeks ago we had been in contact with his early intervention home visitor and she had asked us if we would change his name. They felt like his name was inappropriate or his name sign,” Brian Spanjer, the boy’s father told WISH-TV.
“I asked her if there is a school policy that we are in violation of. What I was referred to, replied to with was ‘well technically it’s a violation of our weapons policy.’ I was floored”
The district’s Board Policy 8470 prohibits “any instrument … that looks like a weapon.” Evidently, that included the boy’s hands.
Yet, officials at the Grand Island Public School District have adamantly denied the insinuation that they are requiring Hunter to change his name.
“Grand Island Public Schools has not changed the sign language name nor requested any student to change their sign language name,” said GIPS spokesman Jack Sheard in a statement.
Sheard went on to say, “The school district teaches American Sign Language for students with hearing impairments. ASL is recommended by the Nebraska Department of Education and is widely used in the United States. The sign language techniques taught in the school district are consistent with the standards of the Nebraska Department of Education and ASL.”
Mr. Spanjer offered a different interpretation of the school’s statement.
“Actually I think the meaning of that statement was they’re not requiring him to change his name. He’s allowed to finger spell his name. They just don’t want him using his name sign in the schools,” he said.
The boy’s mother was also able to read between the lines.
“They want us to modify it. They want us to modify it to the ASL sign. We are SEE [Signing Exact English], this is what we’ve known. I think it’d be a big difference. It’d be like telling me to change my name because it’s not spelled the right way,” Morgan Hurt told WISH-TV.
Overall, Hunter’s parents seem to have handled the situation with equanimity, choosing to direct the ire at the system and not the school administrators involved.