School's Attempt to Change Child's Name Shows Ignorance of Deaf Culture

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When a school starts trying to stop a toddler from signing his own name, the political correctness has officially gone too far.

The American education world is abuzz today with the news that an adorable Nebraska preschooler named Hunter Spanjer has gotten into trouble for waving his hands around like he's holding a weapon. And the district wants his parents to change his name.

Hunter happens to be deaf. Like many deaf people, he uses a name sign to identify himself. But as Yahoo News reports, his school thinks that when he crosses his fingers and waves his hand to greet other children, it looks too much like he's holding a toy gun.


Now, I grew up with a grandmother who was completely deaf in one ear, an uncle who was legally blind and partially deaf, and an aunt who interpreted sign language for a living. One of my high school pals dated a deaf man for years. I've studied American Sign Language off and on since grade school; so have many of my friends. I know a thing or two about this subculture.

One of the things we hearing people take for granted, every day, is the ability to share our identities with others. We pick up the phone and say hello. We call our friends over from across the street. When we meet someone new, the first thing we ask is, "What's your name?"

For an individual who does not hear, that is the point of name signs. These signs are determined by the deaf community, and they're commonly used to share one's hometown or identify a specific person. In Hunter's case, his name sign would eliminate the need for fingerspelling every time someone wants to know who he is. It actually makes things easier for his teachers and classmates.

It's bad enough that we're watching yet another sad story of childhood innocence damaged by adult paranoia as it unfolds. Even worse, though, is the fact that these school officials seem to be unwilling to grant a child the basic human dignity of keeping -- and sharing -- his own name.


Photo Credit: hissingteakettle.


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