School demands that boy must change his name from Hunter because it violates its weapons policy

In the interest of safety, a preschool is insisting that a deaf boy named Hunter change his name at school so people don't accidentally shoot and kill someone with their finger when they use sign language to say his name.

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?

Better safe than sorry!

Grand Island Preschooler Asked to Change the Sign for His Name in School (Via The Agitator)


  1. Oh, so they didn’t actually ask him to change his NAME, they asked him not to sign it using a GUN?  Well, glad that the headline didn’t imply… oh, wait.

    1.  Uh, that IS asking him to change his name, in the language that he speaks. His name is the sign that he uses, and they’re asking him not to use it.

    2. I’m trying to look at this from the kid’s perspective. I would think that the pointed finger hand sign is the same for this boy as the sound “Albie” is for me. 
       If my school said I had to call myself “Bob” and everyone else would call me “Bob” then I’d think they were asking me to change my name.

    3.   My name is X. It is said aloud a certain way. It is spelled a certain way. It is signed a certain way. If you were to ask me to change the spelling to Ecks because it reminded you of a scary guy named Malcolm, don’t you think I’d be able to claim you were asking me to change my name?

    4.  He’s deaf. Sign language is his language. That sign, to him, is his name.

      Not to mention he doesn’t use a gun to sign his name. He uses a sign that resembles the shape of a gun, similar to the one that I used in preschool as a child to play GI Joe and I don’t recall having shot anyone with my finger…

    5. Yeah, that’s the deal – he carries around a gun, which he pulls out whenever he needs to introduce himself.  Oh, wait, no, the sign for his name uses an empty hand, same as every other sign.

    6.  What good is a name, Mr. cabr1to, if you are unable to speak?

      They’re not asking him not to sign it using a gun.  There is no gun at all in the use of signing his name.  There is the use of pointing his crossed fingers up and down.  There is no use of a federally controlled firearm.

      If you are not deaf, it may be hard to understand how demeaning this is.  Assume, momentarily, your name is Gaylord.  Now your school is requiring you to change your name from Gaylord to, say, Chris, or Greg, because your name is associated with the evil filth that is known as homosexual attraction, praise be to Jesus.

      No one can call you Gaylord, even though it’s been your name since you were born.  If they do, they, or you, could get suspended or likely expelled.  Fair?  Reasonable?  You may not be required to change your name in a court of law, but you can’t ever use that name so long as you are at the school or conducting school business.  That is, in effect, changing your name. 

    7. they have no legal right to tell him not to use the sign.  the kid is covered under ADA, and his signs are protected because it is how he speaks, if they have issues with it they can learn sign language

  2.  This policy makes sense if you think about the fact that American Sign Language requires you to be holding the actual object that you’re talking about. In this case, Hunter requires a handgun to be able to say his name correctly. It’s only sensible to ask him to change his name to something less dangerous, like “Dick”.

    1.  I shall be known in ASL, henceforth, as Garbage Bag Fulla Twenties. Please feel free to call me over and I will then repeat my name back to you (and subsequently run like hell).

      1. Personally, I’d rather see how you look holding a hypercube in a 3-D-universe. That’d be assume!

  3. Would it be wrong to teach the kid to sign their name with just the middle finger extended and an expression on their face that indicates a sense of complete disdain.

  4. I like to think that all those bazillions of kids named Hunter are named after Dr. S. Thompson.  Or, at the very least, that they’ll pick up his books at an innappropriate age.

  5. Well, that’s easy! The policy forbids anything that looks like a weapon. Does a hand look like a weapon? Um… well, not counting bionic weapon hands… no! So, no problem, case closed!

    Or are they going to forbid even signing “gun”? Are schools in general forbidding the use of the word “gun”? I don’t think so… *sniff* *sniff* I think something here smells of discrimination. The school lawyer might want to make these people shut up before they dig themselves into an even bigger legal mess.

  6. Once you have a rulebook and no discretion about its implementation, you no longer need a brain.

    1.  Oh, you mean like religious holy books? You would think people charged with educating kids would have a more intelligent and flexible attitude as opposed to this “only one way to skin a cat” approach. And I would imagine you could not use that phrase in this classroom either.

  7. Simple solution….his parents should change his name to Fuck You.  There’s already a well established, universally known sign for that.

  8. Putting aside the “name change” issue. This is still remarkably idiotic. The crossed finger waving looks almost nothing like a weapon of any sort. If he extends one finger and thumb, points the finger at someone and drops the hammer/thumb then yes, looks a little bit like a pistol.
    But the crossed fingers bear as much resemblance to a pistol as holding my hand out straight and flat does to a knife or making it into a fist bears a striking resemblance to a fist. There is almost no shape for my hand that isn’t more similar to a weapon than those crossed fingers.
    And yet, are they trying to ban hands altogether? No, because everyone has hands. Whereas this kid is just one kid, and they thought he’d be an easy target. The school has been emasculated to the point where it can’t make any decisions without objections, so the only decisions it thinks it can make are completely underpants on head insane.

    1.  Solution: Ban hands! Dangerous weapons shouldn’t be allowed to fall into the wrists of small children.

      1. When you put it like that… I want them to ban elbows! Those sharp pointy things are dangerous!

        Oh… oh! And guns don’t kill people, hands that hold the gun do! You are so right! If we didn’t have hands a lot less people would end killed by guns!!!

  9. everything about this?  FAIL.     Poor kid.    I truly feel for him,  as he will never understand why adults are such idiots.

  10. I’m not American, but how is this not a violation of his constitutionally protected right to free speech? ASL is language, after all.

  11. His parents should change his name to “Fuck Off, Asshole.” (What’s the sign for that I wonder, an upraised middle finger?)

    I wonder how they would treat a kid from a family of martial artists?  Y’know, a kid whose hands really ARE weapons.

  12. This shows the danger of “zero tolerance” policies. It leads to ridiculous “zero thinking”.  I feel for the kid – I hope they pull their heads out.

  13. The obvious cover-up here is that Hunter’s deafness is a side-effect of secret government experiments intended to give him psychic powers. They just don’t want him accidentally shooting someone when his strange and mysterious abilities bloom.

  14. Alexis de Tocqueville considered the possibility of a democracy descending into a sort of soft despotism in which a growing lattice of “small complicated rules” gradually covers society, stifling existence, not forcing anyone to act a certain way, but making it more and more difficult at every turn to do anything (1).  This seems to be a good example…

  15. I’d hate to see what they’d do to my nephew who is called Gunner.  The name German or Swedish in origin I think.

    1. It’s of Scandinavian origin, the Swedish version would be Gunnar. It’s a combination of the old words for battle and warrior. But I think he will be ok as long as he doesn’t write his name, the rule came with the provision that it shouldn’t “look” like a weapon.

  16. Anyone want to wager how quickly this absurdity makes it to the microphone at this week’s GOP convention? Maybe they’ll let Ted Nugent take the lead.

    1. I was just wondering how long this will take to be the subject of a Bill O’Reilly jacked-up “pinhead” outrage bit.

  17. Of the sign language that I have observed, it seems to transition rapidly from one hand gesture to the next.  
    Even if one of the gestures had the vague shape of a gun, surely it wouldn’t be held for a long period of time, with the arm extended as if firing?

    Usually when a person is signing, their arms are crooked up in front of their chest, not exactly a threatening posture.

  18. I think it is acceptable for the school to ask him to change his name *while at the school* to something which is not violent. Some might suggest Butterfly, or Flower. I think he should change his name *at the school, and only at the school*, to “The principal is a tosser”. See – not violent, and has the added advantage that it is instantly understandable to even those who do not know sign language.

  19. FFS!! This is the epitome of 21st century USA stupidity!! Is this what it’s come to?! Really?!  I’m out of here.  Norway here I come… 

    1. I compliment you on your choice of country to relocate – I haven’t been there yet, but hopefully soon. Anyway, there are rules governing the choice of names for children that exclude un-Norwegian sounding names. 

      I’m not criticizing or agreeing with the law.

      Here is a link to an article describing one case, where the parents wanted to name their child Gesher, which is Hebrew for bridge and is used as a proper name in Hebrews. I don’t think the parents are Jewish though. 

      Here is a quote from the linked article:

      “Norway’s strict names law dates from the 1800s, and is intended to protect children from names that sound or look strange.”I guess there couldn’t be any Honey Boo Boos in Norway (assuming that’s the name on Birth-Cert.)

      1. It’s odd that we now deprecate given names that have a current meaning in the local language, but all names started out as descriptors.

        1. Yes it is odd how names are depreciated in this manner. 

          Names are such a basic, inherent part of any sort of social interaction, even non-human animals have stable,  unique utterances peculiar to an individual.  

          The antiquity of names -of-individuals, and their fundamental function for social communication is surely why there are so many emotions, rules and laws devoted to them. 

          I haven’t bothered to research what the writers had in mind, but I think the Borg in Star Trek were a device to display the irony of the futility in attempting to homogenize – to erase differences – in sentient beings. The Borg, prisons and militaries attempt to do this by assigning rank and serial number, but the designations once assigned to an individual become _their’s_ and no one else’s. 

          However, these organizations, and cults, understand that renaming a new member is a useful device to assist in their control and indoctrination.  

          Names are an important aspect of one’s identity and forcing a new one on someone is an important first step in interfering with someone’s identity. This makes the supposedly educated school administrators who should know this even worse than at first glance. 

        1. I’m not sure exactly how the name Gunnar Gunnsen would go over in that school – probably not so well. 

          I am however sure that this is a very cool name.

    1. We already have a small one every two years and are now in the middle of the big one held every four years. Maybe in the off years stuff like this can get voted on. Like March Madness. Regional tournaments and the top four go to the nation championship.

  20. I wonder what they would do if I would be deaf and my name would be Dick?  This is really pathetic… and say these people are supposed to teach our kids…

  21. His namesign (as his father is demonstrating) is the same sign I was taught in ASL as “I really need to use the restroom, NOW”, as a kid – the equivalent of “GOTTA PEEPEEPEEPEE DANCE”. (“restroom” being the crossed index and middle finger, as the sign for “R”, held up and dipped down twice, combined with the sign for “dance”, two fingers (as legs) swept back and forth over an upturned palm. Legs all crossed and bendy, restroom dancing.)

    So, now it will be impermissible for children to say, in ASL, that they really need to peepee. It looks like guns. Or triggers being pulled. Or denigrates Hunter’s name by making it “sound like” he needs to urinate/ defecate.

    Or he just won’t be allowed to use the restroom. Or the kid who uses ASL won’t be allowed to.

    The horseshit that clueless, spineless, brainless bureaucrats inflict on people who are different.

  22. I don’t know sign language.  But I do know one sign that I would change my name to if this happened to me.

  23. I think the problem is that he IS bringing one of the most dangerous weapons of all time to school… an impressionable young mind, with all the resources and knowledge of the world at this end of history, at its disposal.

  24. Well, I don’t agree with the school.  A hearing child will eventually respond to the sound of their name, and that becomes their identity.  A deaf child learns a sign that becomes their identity. 
    I have dimples, so my sign name is the letter D pointing at my dimples.  That sign name was given to me by my wonderful deaf friends.  I treasure that sign!  My ex-husband’s name also begins with D, and they gave him a sign name that was a letter d masturbating.  Ok, maybe that wouldn’t really fly at the school, but it was his sign name. 
    The child is named Hunter, the sign was given by his parents just as his name was.  It fits the name.  The school should grow up!!

  25. I completely agree with the school on this one. They have a zero tolerance policy and the kid is violating it. It’s that simple.

    What good is a zero tolerance policy if you keep making exceptions due to things like “compassion” or “facts”. The important thing about a zero tolerance policy is that there are no exceptions to innocent people caught in its web of rules. After, all it’s a great lesson for life:

    Father: What did you learn in school today, son?

    Son: I learned that life is capricious, and that those with power do their best to humiliate those without power to keep the powerless in their place and preserve the hierarchical social structure that keeps those with power on top.

    Father: Very good, son!

  26. How would you have like it if you were 3 years old and your school forbade you from using “Alesha” because it violated some kind of policy?

  27. Could you please lis to the first two sentences of the embedded video  and compare them to what you wrote?

  28. Except this:

    “”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.”

    What are they “working with the parents” on then?

  29. From
    The name gesture was “not an appropriate thing to do in school,” and administrators were asking Hunter to spell his name out, letter-by-letter, instead of using the sign, spokesman Jack Sheard told the Daily News
    The way he signs his name is analogous to the way you speak your name. Would you be OK if you were told to speak your own name another way because of an overzealous zero tolerance policy that leaves no room for good judgment or humanity in dealing with children?  

  30. Except the part where they are telling him he must not speak his name in his native language. They’ll have to call him SOMETHING, and and if he and they can’t use his legal name he’ll have to change it. Oh, I guess they ARE asking him to change something…

  31. The child is deaf. When he speaks, he uses his hand in the approximate shape of a gun in order to SAY his name. The school says he cannot say his name using that sign.

    Therefore they are telling him he cannot say his name.

  32. Apart from the quote that “they say” his name sign violates “their weapons policy” and that the spokesperson for the school says they are “working with the parents to come to the best solution for the child” as opposed to say, doing nothing because his name sign is completely OK and there is no problem to solve.

    FAIL of use of the word “literally”, and possibly reading comprehension.

    Whether assertions in the story “support” the claim adequately for your liking, I can’t say. But the story does indeed contain and repeat what the headline asserts.

  33. What are you talking about? It’s in the 1st 5 seconds of the video. The reporter reads it right at you. 

  34. “Hello, my name at preschool is Jay-ewe-el-ee-ess, because my real name is shameful for reasons that I don’t understand.”

  35. They qualify: “may” have to change his name, and the “newsy” piece seems to be creating its own possible scenarios despite the school district not really commenting either way.  If they stick to these rules it’s beyond dumb, but you are also all jumping the gun (the Hunter?) on what will likely come to nothing….

    I searched to see if there was any other local news source covering this  issue, for any more info on it, and there wasn’t, you just get a shitload of screeching libertarian and gun nut blogs/sites…..and Boing Boing.

  36.  It’s a damn good thing his name isn’t Ulysses (like the famous Civil War General), or he might be accused of walking around waving a gun in the air (check out Manny’s chart below).

    G, H and U are all a little ‘gunny’

  37. I don’t know about others, but at least for me the point of this news story isn’t so much if he has or hasn’t to change his name as it is about why the school thinks that him signing his name is in violation of the policy of not allowing any instrument that looks like a weapon. If they really want to go down that path, are they going to forbid any sign that may look like a gun (ASL signs for the letters G and H, for instance)? Do they really want to go there?

    If anybody at the school administration would have had any brains at all, they would have recognized that the child is deaf and they are therefore potentially stepping on some pretty big toes (ADA, and potentially other federal laws, as far as I as an non-US person have understood). Instead they should have tried to figure out how they can work this to not be included into the “zero tolerance” policy without losing face… if they seriously want to keep the claim for other kids that hands can be “instruments” and that they can look like a weapon. Going after a deaf boy for signing is just _seriously_ stupid.

  38. And how do you know it’s obviously not going to happen? Well… obviously it’s not going to happen now that this story was picked up by the news and made the school administrators look like total idiots. But if this never had been picked up, are you totally sure the school administrators wouldn’t have insisted on him using some other sign for his name? They are still “working” with the parents, so obviously the name hasn’t yet been cleared.

    I assume you think the header of him being asked to change his name is the “sensationalist” part, but that is what the parents claim. Are you saying they are lying? Or are you claiming that news should only report on things that have come to their conclusion? Somehow I don’t think that’s what journalism is about. (Only reporting on an election after the results are in? Or about a tropical storm if it turns out it actually became a hurricane and caused lots of lost lives and damage?)

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