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OMG, OMG! A Deaf Kid! Signing His Name! OMG!

We’ve all heard stories of abject stupidity where schools’ zero-tolerance policies are concerned. Our favorite has always been the Rutherford County School’s prohibition on gnawing a slice of pizza into the shape of a pistol. But pants-wetting hoplophobia apparently knows no bounds, especially where public officials are involved. Thus, we have a new contender in the heavyweight division of the zero tolerance idiocy hall of fame. In this corner, exhibiting an appalling absence of common sense combined with a willful lack of concern for a three-year-old deaf child, please welcome the Grand Island, Nebraska Public Schools . . .

The problem: the district has a student named Hunter Spanjer. Hunter, being deaf, has to sign his name and he’s been taught to use official S.E.E. signs to communicate. Betcha can’t guess what the official sign for Hunter is. Thaaaaat’s right, two hands held like pistols, shaken up and down.

This from

“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?

Well, if it’s a board policy their hand are tied, right? If they make an exception for one little deaf child, next thing you know they’ll have gang signs flashed in the second grade cloak room! Pizza guns brandished in the cafeteria. It’ll be bedlam I tell you, bedlam!

So what’s the district’s carefully considered solution for a kid who only wants to be able to say his name the only way he knows how? Apparently unencumbered by anything remotely resembling the thought process, the school wants the tyke reeducated.

“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’s really amazing is that Sheard managed to get that out, on camera, with a straight face. Just to be clear, by “best solution,” they mean making the poor kid learn his name all over again by crossing his little fingers while singing. Because that will make it all much better.

Meantime, Hunter’s parents aren’t sitting back and taking it. They’re getting lawyers from the National Association for the Deaf involved. While that process is grinding its way toward resolution, we’re hoping the concerned citizens of Grand Island express their displeasure with the current state of affairs in a measured and appropriate manner. Tarring and feathering the district’s numbnuts superintendent, Dr. Robert Winter (above) — the man ultimately in charge and who’s allowed this situation to get this far — immediately comes to mind.

[h/t Mike, whose son is named Gunnar and is really glad he’s not a Grand Island resident]


  1. avatar Eric says:

    Get the ADA involved in this and things will settle down super fast. The district does not need/want the feds from ADA breathing down their necks.

    1. avatar International Jeff says:

      Actually, I’d skip the whole ADA – sue under the IDEA. The IDEA is very clear: disabled students CANNOT be punished for violations of otherwise legal school regulations IF their violation is a direct result of their disability. For example: you cannot punish a student with Autism for clenching his fists if that is a manifestation of his disability. You cannot punish a student with Tourette’s for swearing if the swearing occurred during an episode.

      This case is cut and dry. First, I’m unclear how the school is defining a student’s hands as “instruments.” Unless it’s facially clear in the handbook and school code that hands are included in the definition of instruments, you’ve got a massive due process violation. If it is clear that hands are included in the definition of instruments, then you’ve STILL got a problem because the school has violated the IDEA because the only reason the boy made the hand gesture was because he was signing. The only reason he’s signing is because he’s deaf.

      Here would be the extent of my negotiations – issue a formal apology to my client, never bring it up again, pay any legal fees they may have -or- get ready to give the kid a full ride to college and lose your career.

      1. avatar John D says:

        Say, Jeff, I just got a speeding ticket- are you available?

      2. avatar bill says:

        Plus one to you sir.

    2. avatar Anne Williams says:

      That was my first thought on seeing the headline. That school board is surely violating standards for accommodating the disabled.

    3. avatar Troy says:

      FYI: the ADA is not an agency, it is a law (the Americans with Disabilities Act). There are no ADA employees.

  2. avatar Wes says:

    Just when you think you’ve seen the dumbest thing in the world…. this comes along. There are not words for it.

    Does anyone else remember playing cowboys and Indians on the playground?

    1. avatar Jim Barr says:

      Um, so you don’t offend anyone, please edit your post to use the correct terms: “Cowboy” should be “bovine life manager”, “Indians” should be “Unjustly oppressed original dwellers”, and “playground should be “no-contact student interaction space”.

      1. avatar Sid says:

        Thank you, comrade. He was using several non-words. Your comments were double-plus good.

        1. avatar Ing says:

          1984 doublespeak for the win!

        2. avatar DonS says:


      2. avatar racer88 says:

        Awesomeness! LOL!

  3. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

    What’s it called when the inmates are running the assylum, again?

    1. avatar irock359 says:

      The Tea Party.

      1. avatar Merits says:

        Oh, you’re at the wrong place, irock. Turn around, and go 1000 miles in the opposite direction; the lies about guns, among other things, can be found at

      2. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

        Which one? The bible-thumping bitter clingers? Or the “leave me the fvck alone!” crowd? They aren’t one and the same, you know.

    2. avatar Tim says:

      Ha ha, ain’t that the truth.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    these stories, unfortunately we hear them on a regular basis, show such a tremendous and willful lack of smarts that the perpetreters of these outrages should be fired immediately and without appeal. we need to codify common sense in this country.

    1. Why there aren’t people standing outside Superintendent Winter’s house in Grand Island every single morning screaming questions at him, asking how low his IQ is and why he has no shame, I just don’t know.

      Public ridicule is a powerful tool.

      1. avatar bontai Joe says:


        1. avatar Frank in VA says:

          May your name never be called on The Price is Right.

    2. avatar jim says:

      I occasionally follow the oasis-of-common-sense “parent-and-teachers “Free Range Kids” blog, which deals with the idiocy of over-protecting children from everything. (Statistically, if you let your kid play unsupervised in the yard it would be several thousand years before they got kidnapped by a stranger, and by then the tyke would be hungry.) I’ve seen so many examples of this at FRK – one classic was the 6th-grade girl who gave the yearbook photographer a goofy grin and the principal refused to run the picture because she might be flashing a gang sign. I’ve had a lot of fun – and gotten lots of positive feedback – remembering attending a small-town high school where there were enough guns in the vehicles in the parking lot to equip a regiment and we never had a school shooting. A fistfight was a three-day suspension but shooting a classmate was REAL trouble… back when Personal Responsibility was a required course.

  5. avatar Texas Sean says:

    Where our country once stood, there’s a steaming dung heap of idiocracy and special interest claptrap visible from space. *sigh* Miss my granddad but I’m glad he didn’t live to see this.

  6. avatar Jeremy L. Knauff says:

    How do you sign “dumb ass?”

    1. avatar Closet-Gun-Nut says:

      I usually extend my middle finger (or both). Its universal for, dumb-ass.

      1. avatar bontai Joe says:

        Amen to that!

    2. avatar Rambeast says:

      I prefer to cross my index and middle fingers, hold them at a 45 deg angle to my temple and rotate them back and forth (sign for retard).

  7. avatar Jim Barr says:

    So basically they are saying that the kid can’t ever sign the word “hunter” regardless of context. That could morph into a real 1st Amendment issue .

    1. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      It’s pretty clear that the principal hasn’t thought through the legal ramifications of this AT ALL.

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        You assume “thought” is a part of the process these days.

  8. avatar Jason says:

    I should have named my son Gunner. What would they do with that?

    1. avatar Chas says:

      Or Glock, or Remington, or Marlin.

      1. avatar speedracer5050 says:

        Wonder what he would do if my 2 sons and my grandson were named oh maybe….Remington Colt, Bushmaster Kimber and maybe Marlin”AK”???
        Probably have a Massive Cranial Embolism with Explosive Grey Matter Ejection!!
        BTW it is day 3 since I sent the email letter to the Esteemed Dr Winter and no reply as of yet. Feel so sad, he didn’t even have the decency to sen me a “Piss Off” email. How Rude!!!

    2. avatar Felix says:

      I wonder what people who have those names for real are supposed to do.

      1. avatar Mark says:

        I always preferred Ruger. But my wife hasn’t shot my SP101 with 357 yet, so maybe thats why she doesn’t like the name…

  9. avatar Dan says:

    I’m a deaf person that primarily communicates via American Sign Language (ASL); this issue is really dumb. I hope the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) realizes that American Sign Language, in its authentic nature, allows a person’s name sign to “fit” the context of one’s name if that makes sense; in this case, Hunter’s name. As such, NAD could argue that the school district is discriminating against the child’s culture and language under this concept.

    This superintendent really lacks common sense.

  10. avatar IdahoPete says:

    ADA lawsuit. That is language even an idiot school supe will understand.

    Stories like this tell me that we have gotten WAY too far from Darwinian selection in this country. 150 years ago an idiot like the school supe would have died young.

    And 150 years ago, he would indeed have been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. A sharp, triangular split rail from a split-rail fence.

  11. avatar Ryan says:

    What we really need is some common sense gun control. No one needs a set of assault fingers. We should ban all index fingers!

  12. avatar Matt in FL says:

    “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.

    I’ve got the “best solution.” No working with anyone required. You ready?

    STFU and GBTW

    Link included for translation, if it’s necessary.

  13. avatar Skyler says:

    The bigger problem is that he’s being taught S.E.E. instead of ASL. SEE is a terrible language and although it was popular in schools about 30 years ago, it is virtually unused in the deaf community. The child needs to learn ASL or he will be severely marginalized by both the deaf and hearing worlds.

    This is another reason why we need to abolish public schools. The people running them are too stupid for words.

    1. avatar DonS says:

      Even with ASL, he’d run into the same “zero-tolerance” policy as soon as he tried to sign ‘twenty-one’.

  14. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    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.

    It drives me nuts when people talk in the third person!

    (In case some of you didn’t catch that or don’t know the English grammar construction of talking in the third person, Jack Sheard is referring to himself when he says “child” in his statement.)

    1. avatar racer88 says:

      HA! Excellent.

  15. avatar Chas says:

    Every time I read something like this my blood pressure rises, because I can’t stand the thought of my tax money being used to pay idiots employed by the government indoctrination centers.

  16. avatar Mike says:

    The ‘gun’ sign in his name is really the letter H in American Sign Language. So they’ve now preventing the kid from using any word with the letter H! Where do I send my money so the parents can sue the the &*%$& out of these people.

  17. avatar Sanchanim says:

    This is simply shocking! I mean that really. It is hard enough this poor kid needs to matriculate into a normal school but then to be faced with this???

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach run the school system.

    1. avatar Greg Camp says:

      Go easy there, Ralph. I know many teachers who can do many things. We’d be able to do more and teach more if we weren’t taking fire from all directions. If only that simplified things for us the way it did for Chesty Puller.

  19. avatar Mark says:

    I hope all the “politically correct”, brainwashed sheep split their votes between Roseann Barr and other lunatic fringe candidates this November.

  20. avatar Aharon says:

    I wonder how the anti-gun ACLU would respond to this case. It might be worth it to contact them just to record their response for history.

  21. avatar Greg Camp says:

    I’ve had the misfortune to teach in urban high schools during a part of my career. We officially had a no-tolerance policy, but no one ever wanted to enforce it. A kid like that would have been a welcome relief from the constant cursing, threats, general disrespect, and overall lack of desire to do better on the part of the students. I could talk for days about what’s wrong with American education now, but this example is a good illustration.

  22. avatar zeos386sx says:

    They should get his name changed to Hunter ‘)Drop TABLE Students;

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      That’s one of my favorite strips ever.

    2. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

      LOVE xkcd.

  23. avatar Silver says:

    Reason number 14,567 to home school if at all possible.

    If this idiot ran my kid’s school, I’d sit my kid down and use him as an example of why critical thinking and questioning authority are absolutely necessary. Then I’d brighten my kid’s say by saying that even though this guy was 40 years older than her, she was still more intelligent.

  24. avatar Deez says:

    There is something MUCH bigger to this.

    Zero tolerance was always about conditioning kids to accept a police state. It was never about safety. Cases like this wouldn’t be so common if any good intentions were behind this. It’s not “for the children,” and it never was. It’s flagrantly brainwashing the next generation to accept prison life as normal. To live in constant fear of sanction by the authorities. Today’s 15 yo American public school kid grew up with a mindset not so different from a kid growing up in the Soviet or Nazi system. To be clear America is not mass murdering people like those systems (yet?), but the perspective of our kids who grew up in public school, subject to these type of insane sanctions for random thought crimes, has to be similar based on this prison-like life experience. Ever lived under constant threat? It does change one’s perspective. Like a hand shy dog.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is not about discipline. They removed real discipline around the same time they implemented this. They used to paddle kids and we got good results. They stopped enforcing the rules against real problem behavior at the same time they started “zero tolerance.”

    There’s a saying inside the DC beltway, “nothing succeeds like the right kind of failure.” Always remember that when trying to understand government programs or policies that seem insane or “almost” as if they were intended to fail.

    Try to reprocess your political understanding through the lens of “nothing succeeds like the right kind of failure,” and see if things make more sense.

    It think this was always clear, but as its been implemented and enforced, its been PROVEN that zero tolerance is not about good intentions or child safety.

    As other comments have pointed out, there is uneven selective enforcement. Why aren’t urban school kids getting suspended for finger motions or bringing a butter knife? The problem schools have shootings and stabbings on the first day, and kids throwing things at the teachers in class, while the suburban or rural school kids get zero tolerance.

    There is a lot of blatant aggressive social engineering by our government going on in parallel with “zero tolerance” in schools. Anyone who’s paying attention should wonder about connecting the dots.

    What is the superintendents personal politics? Are there any trends in the political leanings of school admins? What about DC based Department of Education staff? Think it’s not relevant?

    See also: the long march

    1. avatar Seeker says:

      There’s actually a much more practical purpose for “Zero Tolerance” that doesn’t require conspiracy theories: removing liability. If you have a “zero tolerance” policy, it means that the circumstances and evidence surrounding a particular incident can be completely ignored, and there is only one possible outcome. This removes any decision making from the process, and hence, removes any liability from the staff.

      If you actually use common sense and take into account the circumstances of a situation (e.g. Were both kids actively fighting, or was one kid attacked and just defending himself?) when deciding fault or punishment then you have the possibility of making a mistake or error in judgement. This leaves the individual open to liability for that mistake. On the other hand, if you simply wipe your hands of it and point to a rule book stating “Zero Tolerance”, you no longer have to make any decisions. There is only one possible outcome, and no judgement calls. No judgement calls means no liability, so even if something goes very wrong the staff can simply state “We had no choice in the matter.” and wash their hands of it.

      In other words, “Zero tolerance” is really “Zero liability”. Ironically, it means that the *staff* can’t be held accountable for its actions. What a wonderful thing to teach kids, huh?

      1. avatar Deez says:

        This is very true, and was maybe the biggest factor in getting these types of policies implemented in our litigious society. That being said, ascribing to the idea that because anything is a conspiracy “theory,” it must be false is not wise. There are other forces at work here beyond just the simple liability issue or the schools could not have ended up in the shape they are today.

        Be clear on this: I didn’t make up the “nothing succeeds like the right kind of failure” quote.

        This is the way politics in America is conducted. I’m not dealing in theory. There is enough conspiracy fact using only the conspirators own words that one doesn’t need to theorize.

        There is no value to speculating, but there is ample evidence in their own words that, yes there is a conspiracy against the hearts and minds of America’s human capital.


        1. avatar Seeker says:

          I realize that just because something is labeled a conspiracy theory does not make it false. In fact, conspiracies are naturally all around us, because that’s what people do when they work together — they conspire towards a common goal, be it good or bad.

          However, I tend to believe that complex systems tend to work the way they do due to the simplest rational explanation, even though that can often be just simple human stupidity.

          In this case, I believe “Zero Tolerance” exists to remove staff from the liability of making poor decisions. It insulates them from legal liability and from the wrath of parents. They can simply dodge the issue at hand and state that they have no discretion in the matter. It removes accusations of favoritism, of racial bias, etc. The benefit to staff is clear.

          I see no need to entertain a vast conspiracy to indoctrinate children to behave in a certain way when the notion of removing liability is rational and self-evident. Does this mean there isn’t a grand conspiracy? Of course not, but you cannot prove a negative.

          I say this in all earnestness: Show me evidence of a conspiracy. It may seem obvious to you, but to me removing liability is the obvious explanation. You say that there is plenty of fact, and “evidence in their own words” to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy. Well, I would appreciate it if you pointed me toward this evidence. If the evidence is solid and compelling, I may end up agreeing with you.

          If there is a conspiracy I would assume you would want to open my eyes. Well, here is your chance. Show me any evidence you have. Otherwise, I Believe it makes most sense to stick to the explanation that is the most rational and plausible: removing liability.

  25. avatar Michael B. says:

    Dr. Robert Winter
    [email protected]

    The e-mail addy was on the site linked in the post.

    The ACLU is helping the family now. There’s also a Facebook group that people can join to express solidarity with him and his parents.

  26. avatar Skyler says:

    I wonder what their reaction would be to an Icelander named Gunnar. It’s the exact same problem.

    The idiocy is overwhelming.

    1. avatar racer88 says:

      Or an all-American kid named Gunnar (my son)?

  27. avatar Mark says:

    “Dear Sir,

    I hope you will kindly and politely remove your head from your 4th point of contact. Leave this young man alone and allow him to learn like everyone else.

    With all the other more pressing problems in our current education system you are worried about what the Sign Language Hand Positions for his name looks like???

    Please, you and your school board are simply making this young mans life harder than it already is.

    Quit being such a hoplophobic individual and let him learn what he needs to learn as it is going to be used in the outside world in which he will live his life.

    Or do you intend to make every deaf person in the world relearn the “New Dr. Winter Approved Hand Signs for The Hearing Impaired”??

    I hope you have made the right choice already and dropped this non issue but just in case you haven’t please do so now.

    God Bless You and Have A Nice Day Sir!!!”


    This will probably get me a few nasty emails and flamed like burnt bbq but i sent the above letter to the esteemed Dr Winter a little bit ago. Having a niece who is severly afflicted with Downs Syndrome and her mom having had to remove her from public school and homeschool her because the teacher couldn’t understand her or get her to learn anything “like a normal kid”(her exact words to the mom and the school board during the hearing) I can imagine the absolute astonishment of his parents.
    Oh well!!! Just had to say my piece!!!
    Getting my anti flame suit and nasty email repellant out now!!!

    1. avatar Michael B. says:

      My only issue with it is that you called him “sir”, which is a title he is not worthy of.

      1. avatar Mark says:

        This is true Michael B but I was trying very hard to be somewhat polite and at least semi professional in the letter.
        Although he doesn’t deserve it or the job he has I will be as polite and non sarcastic as I can the 1st time.
        After that he can kiss my a$$ because the gloves will come off so to speak.
        Just waiting to see what kind of reply i get, if any. If I do get a reply i will definitely post it here for all to see.

  28. avatar Drama says:

    A prime example of why education in the US is failed.

    This kid is not a kid they care about, a kid they want to get to know and help in his years in the school.

    Nope he’s just another kid, one of many, simply a statistic who will be counted only as a single point in a graph over several years just like every other student.

    My elementary school principal knew everyone’s name at the school and he worked there for 30 years doing that. I ran into him while working a few years ago and he recognized he as a 20-something year old even though he retired when I was a 4th grader. Find my someone like that in a public school today.

  29. avatar Aharon says:

    This one is now a front page link on MSNBC.

    ‘Deaf child’s sign language name looks too much like gun, parent says school told him’

    It might be just a coincidence lately yet it seems as if someone at MSNBC is paying attention to the stories being circulated on the pro Gun Blogs and Gun News sites.

  30. avatar Martin Zdansky says:

    Mind you, not everybody is this @#$^!%^. I do a few hours of teaching per week on a high school for deaf students and the sign for a gun is a part of my name sign the *kids* gave me. Sure, they rarely use it anymore, because even the first sign in that name sign is unique to me (at least amongst those visiting the school). But it is there.

    *Nobody* has any problem with it. And I live in Europe (OK, Czech Republic, we havew more sensible weapons laws than most other countries around here, but still). So not all schools are this @#$%@$.

  31. avatar Jfoster says:

    How in the world did it get to this?

    What? What is he signing? OMG! That looks like a gun. He’s pointing his fingers just like a gun! What’s that you say? His name is Hunter? And that’s the sign fit his name?
    Well I’m sorry, that’s just too scary for him to hold his fingers that way. We better talk to the principle to see if that’s ok. Let’s call his parents, we can’t allow fingers to be pointed in such a threatening manner at school! OMG the humanity.

    Your tax payers dollars at work!

  32. avatar Edwin Herdman says:

    I hope some people have noticed that the ACLU – not always the darling of people on the right – is on the right side of this issue.

    Frankly I’m astonished it has been allowed to go this far; it shouldn’t have. H/T to local media for covering it.

  33. avatar speedracer5050 says:

    Well still no answer or email back from the esteemed Dr. Winter yet. Either he hasn’t gotten to my email yet, or he is ignoring it or he is still trying to find the definition of hoplophobic in the dictionary or online!!’ Lol.
    Him and the school board need a serious ass kicking and a good hard Gibbs Slap in the head!( NCIS reference for those that don’t know what a Gibbs Slap is)!!

  34. avatar Paul Schreiber says:

    I’ve maintained fore quite some time now that the hearing impared need something that I dreamed up years ago. That is Pig Latin for the hearing impared. That way Doofuses like Dr. Winter would not be able to eaves drop on the conversation in the first place, rendering his moronic decision a moot point at best. Too much time on your hands, Dr winter…….Way too much time………

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