August 30, 2012
Every once in a while, a story so mind-numbingly stupid will make its way across the screens of G&A's online team that it prompts us to call our faith in humanity into question.
More often than not, the story involves some sort of asinine, paranoid, over-the-top, knee-jerk reaction to anything tangentially related to firearms. This is yet another one of those stories.
According to KOLN-TV, a deaf 3-year-old boy, Hunter Spanjer, was recently asked by school officials to change the way he signs his name, claiming the sign resembles a gun.
School officials in Grand Islands, Neb., claimed Hunter's sign -- a registered symbol under Signing Exact English -- violates the school's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470, which forbids "any instrument ... that looks like a weapon." Apparently, the school board was of the opinion that a 3-year-old's tiny, non-lethal hands fall under that category.
The story naturally outraged many, who called to voice their support for the Spanjer family, while simultaneously calling the school district to have a reasoned, civilized discussion (Just kidding, they actually made death threats.).
So under intense public scrutiny -- and the threat of physical harm -- the district released a statement:
Grand Island Public Schools has not changed the sign language name of any student, nor is it requiring any student to change how his or her name is signed. The school district teaches American Sign Language ("ASL") 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.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits the school district from disclosing personally identifiable information concerning any student without the prior written consent of the student's parent.
Therefore, the school district cannot discuss any particular student or identify any particular student.
Grand Island Public Schools is not requiring any current student with a hearing impairment to change his or her sign language name. Our mission remains: Every Student, Every Day, a Success!
In other words, "OK, fine, the kid can keep his name." Damn straight. It's ridiculous of the school to think a registered signing symbol is a threat of physical harm, especially coming from a toddler, but the overwhelming gun paranoia is actually the least of the school's problems; I'm not exactly a child psychologist, but I'm pretty sure asking a developing mind to use a different name at school is damaging, to say the least.
Granted, death threats toward the school were a little much, and shouldn't be tolerated regardless of where you stand on the issue. At the same time, this all-out hysteria over something kind of shaped like a gun is something we'd expect out of some country with clear anti-gun policies like the U.K. -- not America's heartland.
We're glad Hunter is able to continue signing his name the way he's used to without having to be told differently, but we hope Grand Island school officials -- as well as schools around the country -- exercise a little more common sense when approaching these types of situations, but since this is America in 2012, we doubt it.
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