School Officials Tell Deaf Toddler He Can't Use the Sign for His Name

Teach tolerance.Schools have a lot of leeway when they come up with policies. They can regulate the clothes by suggesting dress codes and behavior by making rules against fighting and bad language, but this seems a bit much: Grand Island Public Schools administrators have asked a three-year-old deaf boy to change his signing name.

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The boy's name is Hunter Spanjer -- and the sign for his first name looks like a gun. The school claims that the way Hunter signs his name violates the policy aganst instruments that look like weapons -- but Hunter's name is straight out of S.E.E., which stands for Signing Exact English, so it's not a symbol his parents made up out of thin air. So why are teachers are no longer concerned with teaching tolerance?

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Hunter is a three-year-old with special needs; now he's in a school with so little empathy that they want him to change his name because it looks like a weapon? Isn't this the kind of knee-jerk reaction we are trying to get our children to stop doing on the playgrounds?

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Not only did school officials display a stunning lack of tolerance in Hunter's case, but they also missed a teachable moment. What would have been better is if officials had taken a moment to really think this one through, to teach the other children what S.E.E. is and how the sign came into existence. Instead, they showed a stunning lack of empathy, missing an opportunity to share, teach, and learn a little something in the process.

Now, an addendum: the district has released a statement saying Hunter can in fact, keep his name and that's a good thing. Hopefully they see that though the letter of the law was compromised, the spirit of the school -- of and a little boy -- remain intact.

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