September 4, 2012

My Son, My Son, What Have I Done?

From Grand Island, Nebraska's Channel 10 11 News [1,011? 10&11? Do they have so many channels in Nebraska, or so few that they're combining them now?] comes a story of a 3yo boy who uses sign language and the zero-tolerance school district that wants to crush his spirit:

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it.

"He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.

Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?

The boy's relatives and several people on the street agree it's ridiculous. But it's also hilarious that the news reports only describe Hunter's name sign as "a certain special hand gesture." Of making little guns with your fingers and waving them around.

I would think the Spanjers would have a better time arguing that hands are not "instruments," because otherwise, seriously? Unless they send him to an NRA charter school, Hunter's gonna be hitting up against the "no guns, and that includes finger guns" rule for his whole educational career. Are his friends gonna be able to claim, "Those weren't finger guns, I was just signing 'Hunter'!"?

And anyway, I don't know the first thing about how a deaf kid gets his sign name. I would love to know. Do parents make it up, just as they do his name name? Does it evolve as you teach a kid and talk to him, and as he learns and develops? Does it change over time, the way Billys become Bills or Williams? Is it a nickname, like Toofie, given to you by your little brother who can't pronounce your name, and it just sticks?


I ask because I don't know why Hunter's name is "shoot'em up, guns a-blazing" in the first place. Did it come from The Wiggles? [Did you know Finger Guns was the name of Murray's previous band?]


Why does his sign name have crossed fingers, like the letter R [above, left]? Shouldn't it be two fingers, with the thumb down, like an H [above, right]? Would changing to H, and losing the full finger gun effect solve the problem? I had to Google search to make sure I didn't inadvertently give my kid the same as a porn star; doesn't it make sense to check before giving your kid the sign name for Columbine?

Grand Island Preschooler Asked to Change the Sign for His Name in School [ via dt reader


I seem to recall there are a number of signs that have adapted versions for the very young, whose fingers can't handle (ha!) the adult language.

I'm glad that you're asking the right question: who comes up with the child's sign name? This is an opportunity for the general population to learn more about deaf culture and how society needs to respect their language & practices. Unless the libertarians & gun rights advocates co-opt the story, which is what I feel has been happening.

Is it too late to make a comment about a ban on finger guns in the first place?

From what I understand, name signs develop in essentially the same way a name is given by parents. The parents give the sign to their child, but the child may alter it to whatever he or she likes, similar to a nickname. If a person starts signing as an adult (as I did), the person chooses his or her own name sign.

Another example of a name sign: my deaf coworker's name is Robin. Her name sign is the sign for bird, but using an "R" hand since her name begins with R. I would bet that they use the "R" sign for Hunter's name because putting the fingers straight is the sign for "hunt". By adding the "R" hands, they are making it "Hunt-R".

I actually first heard about this controversy from my coworker, and she was infuriated. Really, what this school district is saying is that this child cannot have the name he was given. With their policy, his name should be changed from "Hunter" as well.

not at all, but these people don't seem very well-armed for that battle.

[two minutes later update:] OK, I'm wrong, and this sign name situation is basically pointing right at the heart of the whole finger gun paranoia.

aha, I am fully on board with the R situation; I only know a few signs beyond the alphabet, and didn't realize that's the sign for hunt.

That said, and considering that it's so directly linked to his given name, I think the school district is completely out of bounds. It all makes the news report's omission of the details of his name sign all the more ridiculous.

So...what happens if I name my kid Gunner?

What if my former wrestling coach (Downs) wanted to name his kid Gunner?

Has anyone worked out a general solution to the "the people how have time/choose to become hyper-involved in school policy are not the people you want hyper-involved with school policy" paradox?

You 'Mericans really crack me up. There is a controversy about banning a 3yo to sign his name "hunter" because it involves "finger gungs". Where is the controversy to ban all people from using all (real) guns or at least fully automatic weapons? Talk about Hypocrisy.

It's not hypocrisy -- it's split-brain. As with many other "wedge" issues, the public discourse is completely polarized. Here, you get one side defending the sacred personal right to own nuclear tanks, and the other banning name signs.

I'm still not convinced this whole story is real. It sounds like one of those stories they use on Fox & Friends to make the case OMG THE LIBRULZ ARE COMING FOR YOUR GUNZ AND THEY'RE GOING TO BAN CHRISTMAS TOO!
Then again I've seen enough true "zero tolerance" policy bullshit stories to find this story depressingly believable.

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