Green Room

School district reverses decision on deaf student signing name

posted at 12:18 pm on August 29, 2012 by

Three-year-old Hunter Spanjer may be deaf, but the Grand Island (Neb.) Public School district (GIPS) is not. The district—which had decreed that the preschooler would have to change either his name or his “hand signature” because it violates the school’s zero tolerance policy on guns—has heard the voice of the people.

After receiving thousands of angry emails and phone calls, the district has relented. In a statement, a spokesman for the district wrote:

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!

Brian Spanjer, Hunter’s father, told station 1011, which broke the story, “The encouragement and support is amazing. It’s been more than I could have asked for and it’s been extremely helpful.”

But the celebration over this seeming victory may be premature. The statement from the district also notes:

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 clear implication seems to be that Hunter, who was taught to sign using S.E.E., short for “Signed Exact English,” will be required to learn ASL, which has fundamental differences.

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They smelled the tar heating and heard about the chickens being plucked.

cozmo on August 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM

If only some common sense had been rattling around in their brains to begin with, they could have avoided this public shaming.

Bitter Clinger on August 29, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Not that I love the ADA but Im thinking the schools would be in serious violation and the parents could sue the crap out of them

Rich on August 29, 2012 at 12:48 PM

It should have never been an issue to begin with. I don’t know the drawbacks of teaching two different sign languages, but I believe SEE is better. It seems that the complaints about it are part of that “deaf culture” b.s. Seriously, I’d like to punch those people out.

Blake on August 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM

In other words, he can sign his name but he has to switch to ASL.

I have to wonder if the school district is going to wet their collective panties when Hunter spells out his name. They might believe he’s about to shoot the person next to him when he forms that H.

Wendya on August 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM

It should have never been an issue to begin with. I don’t know the drawbacks of teaching two different sign languages, but I believe SEE is better. It seems that the complaints about it are part of that “deaf culture” b.s. Seriously, I’d like to punch those people out.

Blake on August 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Ugh. Me too. Like those who oppose letting children who can benefit from them having cochlear implants because being deaf is not a disability, it’s a gift and a unique culture.

Shump on August 29, 2012 at 1:02 PM

I used to live in Grand Island. My daughters, however, were in the G.I. Northwest district (thank God). I love Nebraska and I bleed red for the Huskers. Unfortunately, the poor state only seems to make the news because of the actions of idiots like the GIPS superintendent and school board; or Senator Ben Nelson or former Senator Bob Kerrey.

HoosierStateofMind on August 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM

What I posted on another site:

Update: school backs down.

Amazing what the threat of legal challenges will do for policy. I have a deaf son. I know the high-handedness of some special educators and administrators. This statement from the first local article says volumes:

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


“We (the school district) are working (establishing policy unwelcome by the parents and superseding parental authority) with the parents (who we don’t want to really hear from) to come (to force to accept) to the best solution we can (what “we” the school district decides on) for the child (for political correctness).”

That statement from the school district says volumes. It makes the assumption that the parents don’t know best…the school district does. This is how education operates today.

Howard, I appreciate your information on the district wanting to switch from SEE to ASL for this child. That IS a big deal.

ASL is for the Deaf identifying themselves as Deaf first…it’s the language for the Deaf, not hearing folks. A problem with ASL is it uses grammatical structure based on French grammar. If ASL is a deaf child’s first language, it has been shown that reading/writing English is more difficult for that child to master the English language. That is one reason most public school systems adopted SEE or Signed English. It follows English grammatical structures making it easier to acquire reading skills. Most residential state programs use ASL. It’s a huge fight in education.

But just like his name sign, the school system will tell the parents what type of communication is good for their child as indicated in the district’s statement noted above.

This issue of school control doesn’t just concern deaf kids, though….

manateespirit on August 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Pure CYA at this point.

dentarthurdent on August 29, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Pure CYA at this point.

And only partially CYA at that.

Howard Portnoy on August 29, 2012 at 4:12 PM

And only partially CYA at that.

Howard Portnoy on August 29, 2012 at 4:12 PM

True. And what’s their next step? Outlaw the word “gun” because it violates the weapons policy? Pure PC off the deep end.

dentarthurdent on August 29, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Well, ASL is awfully widespread, so Hunter will be better off knowing it, I think. I’m glad the school district at least backed off on the earlier moronic decision.

J.E. Dyer on August 29, 2012 at 11:57 PM

The kid is three years old, which means it’s the perfect time for him to be learning multiple languages. By all means, let him learn both.

Greg Q on August 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM

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