"Any instrument … that looks like a weapon"

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"Grand Island Preschooler Asked to Change the Sign for His Name in School", 8/27/2012:

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?


This is about Grand Island, Nebraska, and the policy in question reads

Students are forbidden to knowingly and voluntarily possess, handle, transmit or use any instrument in school, on school grounds or at school functions that is a firearm, weapon, or looks like a weapon as defined by the State of Nebraska Criminal Statutes, the federal laws found in Section 18 USCS Section 921 and in the administrative procedures for this policy 8470. This policy shall cover any object or item which could be used to injure another person or whose clear intent is to resemble an item which could cause injury and which has no school-related reason for being in a school or on school grounds. Such items will be considered “weapons” for the purposed of this policy. Students who are in possession of the aforementioned articles will be subject to mandatory suspension or expulsion procedures.

The "Administrative Procedures for Implementation of 8470" are here.

I guess that it's (remotely) arguable that using an iconic sign for "Hunter", which involves brandishing your two hands with extended and crossed index and middle fingers, counts as intent to "possess, handle, transmit or use" an "instrument … that … looks like a weapon … or whose clear intent is to resemble an item which could cause injury". But surely this case should be excused under the exemption clause "which has no school-related reason for being in
a school or on school grounds"? After all, having a name is surely a "school-related reason".

But then, I'm neither a lawyer nor a school-system administrator.



61 Comments

  1. David said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    What about making a fist?

    Good grief.

  2. Steve said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

    I think the school's interpretation of the policy is manifestly unreasonable. In the context in which the terms are used, "instrument" and "object" can only be reasonably interpreted to be external objects, not a body

  3. Jeff Carney said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a public-school administrator. But I repeat myself.

    (With apologies to Mark Twain.)

  4. Steve said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    Sorry – accidentally pressed send. Anyway, I think "instrument" or "object" mean external object, not body part, as used in the above text. And, in any event, I agree that a child has a "school related reason" to sign his or her name, even assuming that a signage counts as an instrument or object.

    My guess would be that the school is choosing to interpret its policy as broadly possible, so that it may, for example, discipline a kid who makes his or her hand look like a gun, point it at anothe child, and say, "bang bang, you're dead". Having decided to interpret it that way, the school has a "slippery slope" concern with making an exception for Hunter. But slippery slopes are logical fallacies in general, and this one is particularly absurd. And, FWIW, I don't think the policy, as written, covers a kid who makes a "finger gun" and says "bang bang": there are certainly valid disciplinary reasons to refuse to allow kids to "pretend shoot" each other, but the way to do that would be through a policy which forbids disruptive behavior or allusions to violence, not through a tortured application of a rule that, on it's face, applies to he possession of objects that either are or resemble weapons.

  5. GeorgeW said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

    Doesn't this child have 2nd Amendment rights? Where is the NRA when you need them?

    [(myl) The Second Amendment is about bearing arms, not bearing hands or fingers...]

  6. Sean said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    His name in spoken/written English is "Hunter." Shouldn't we construe _that_ as some kind of threat?

  7. Kris Rhodes said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

    "Students who are in possession of the aforementioned articles will be subject to mandatory suspension or expulsion procedures."

    By their own policy, if they judge this kid is running afoul of the rule, they should be suspending him or expelling him. They're not even following the policy themselves.

  8. Q. Pheevr said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    But surely this case should be excused under the exemption clause "which has no school-related reason for being in a school or on school grounds"?

    Well, the policy is structurally ambiguous on that point:

    This policy shall cover any object or item which could be used to injure another person or whose clear intent is to resemble an item which could cause injury and which has no school-related reason for being in a school or on school grounds.

    If we make the sensible assumption that "which has no school-related reason for being in a school or on school grounds" modifies the "object or item" covered by the policy, then sure, Hunter's hands (and name) should be allowed as having a scholastic raison d'être. But it's also possible to attach the relative clause lower down, so that it modifies the resembled "item which could cause injury," and there's clearly no school-related purpose for, uh, whatever kind of weapon two pairs of crossed fingers supposedly resemble. (I assume it's the head of some sort of complicated bill-guisarme, or possibly a Bohemian earspoon.)

    Anyway, the kid is obviously a trouble-maker, and if his propensity for hoplological mimesis isn't nipped in the bud, then by the time he gets to high school he'll be the guy who insists on carrying the flag of Mozambique to the Model United Nations.

  9. L said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    At 0:31 into the clip, there is an image of the Grand Island Public Schools (TM) logo, clearly displaying two hands in a position resembling a bitchslap in mid-delivery.

    At 1:09 the Early Learning Center displays a pair of hands in position to shove another child.

    In both cases, these are the name signs for the school itself.

  10. Dave K said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

    It's a good thing his parents didn't name him Gunnar–he would have never gotten in the door.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

    "Lance" and "Dirk" immediately come to mind as given names for boys that might give rise to hoplological mimesis (although Lance has been falling in popularity as Hunter has risen, and Dirk fell out of the top 1000 most popular US boys' names at the end of the '80's), depending on how literalistic "name signs" typically are. No doubt there are others, without even getting into surnames.

    Next up: a deaf girl named "Mary Jane" runs afoul of her school's zero-tolerance drug policy?

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

    FWIW, lots of states have a crime called "assault with a deadly weapon" or something similar (sometimes with more or less precise definitions of "deadly weapon") and the courts have not reached uniform results as to whether a fist or other natural portion of the human body can be a "deadly weapon" for purposes of these statutes. The argument that a weapon must necessarily be an object separate from the defendant's body has been accepted in some jurisdictions but rejected in others.

  13. Nathan said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    Well, my fists are registered as deadly weapons.

  14. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

    @J.W. Brewer:

    > […] depending on how literalistic "name signs" typically are.

    In American Sign Language (ASL), sign names usually either represent something about the person (for example, a man with a ponytail might have a sign name based on the sign for "ponytail") or are based on the person's English initial(s). This kid apparently uses Signing Exact English (SEE), a constructed language based very closely on English grammar (but taking most of its lexical vocabulary from ASL); I take it that, at least in his case, this extends even to the point of translating his name literally.

  15. James said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    I'm trying to imagine the school board meeting. "I don't think we're getting enough horrible publicity. Can anyone think of something that will bring down ridicule, scorn, and hatred on a national level?"

  16. William Steed said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    On that, there are still people who learn SEE? I thought it was being phased out in favour of ASL. Maybe I'm getting that mixed up with the equivalent happening in Australia (Signed English phased out in favour of Auslan).

    I see no reason why this isn't a simple case of "No, it doesn't count. Let's move on."

  17. Chris C. said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    I can't help but note that this policy would call for disciplining any kid who points a forefinger at another and says "bang".

    We've passed the point of ridiculousness and entered the Twilight Zone of administrative absurdity.

  18. Mr Punch said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    I don't see why, under the rules, any of these children should be allowed to have hands.

    But isn't this ultimately one of those cases where someone's name is deemed unacceptable (albeit for an unusual reason)?

  19. D.O. said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

    This story reminded me about an episode from the French film Les Choristes. A teachers tries to help a pupil during an examination behind the principal's back. The question was how marshal Ney has died. The teacher made obvious gesture of shooting a rifle. After some hesitation the student answered: "Hunting".

  20. D.O. said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    Addendum: here it is.

  21. Michael Paul Goldenberg said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    I suspected my brief marriage was on shaky ground when my ex-wife wouldn't let my then 7 y.o. son (from a previous relationship) bring into the house a balloon "gun" he'd gotten from the entertainer at a birthday party. She had a strict rule against "weapons" and "war toys" in her house. I forgot to ask if it would be okay if he made his hands into imaginary guns and, if not, what she'd expect me to do with said offending body parts.

  22. Theodore said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

    What about the Christian kids wearing crosses? Last time I checked the cross was an instrument of torture.

  23. Thom said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

    I wish the video had subtitles. I was hoping to share it with a Deaf friend. The only video out there is the one above. I even checked out the news website–which has a button labeled CC. However, upon pushing the CC button, a message "Closed Captioning is unavailable for this video" pops up. An issue that is very relevant to the Deaf community is discussed, and the news station does not offer the option for Closed Captions? (Sure, there is a written article, but not a transcript.)

  24. Larry Sheldon said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 1:32 am

    The short summary:

    We are doomed.

  25. Jonathan said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    In R v Bentham, [2005] UKHL 18, the question before the House of Lords was "Can a person who has his hand inside a zipped-up jacket, forcing the material out so as to give the impression that he has a gun, be held to have in his possession an imitation firearm?"

    No, said the court. Lord Bingham said:
    "One cannot possess something which is not separate and distinct from oneself. An unsevered hand or finger is part of oneself. Therefore, one cannot possess it. Resort to metaphor is impermissible because metaphor is a literary device which draftsmen of criminal statutes do not employ. What is possessed must under the definition be a thing. A person's hand or fingers are not a thing. If they were regarded as property for purposes of section 143 of the 2000 Act the court could, theoretically, make an order depriving the offender of his rights to them and they could be taken into the possession of the police. "

    Lord Rodger added:
    "Dominus membrorum suorum nemo videtur: no-one is to be regarded as the owner of his own limbs, says Ulpian in D.9.2.13. pr. Equally, we may be sure, no-one is to be regarded as being in possession of his own limbs. The Crown argument, however, depends on the contrary, untenable, proposition that, when carrying out the robbery, the appellant had his own fingers in his possession in terms of section 17(2) of the Firearms Act 1968. I agree with my noble and learned friend, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, that for this reason the appeal should be allowed".

  26. Gene Callahan said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 5:58 am

    @Steve: " But slippery slopes are logical fallacies in general, and this one is particularly absurd."

    No, that's surely wrong. The contention of a slippery slope argument is, "Once you start down *that* slope, it will be hard to stop." That is an empirical proposition: some slopes really are slippery while others aren't. With some slopes, say, tobacco use, it is empirically the case that the slope is, indeed, pretty slippery. With others, perhaps, light social drinking, it is empirically false. But I don't see how it is ever "a logical fallacy."

  27. bks said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    In the video it says the child uses a "modified" form of S.E.E. for his name. And the whole story is told from the point of view of the parents. Perhaps the parents are overreacting to some mild criticism from a teacher and there is more to the story?

    –bks

  28. bks said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    Grand Island Public Schools sent this response:

    Grand Island Public Schools has not changed the sign language name of any student, nor is it requiring any student to change how his or her name is signed. 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
    Story has been updates:

    Nebraska Department of Education and ASL.

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits the school district from disclosing personally identifiable information concerning any student without the prior written consent of the student’s parent.
    Therefore, the school district cannot discuss any particular student or identify any particular student.

    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!

  29. bks said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    (Sorry about the messed-up formatting, URL and one more try:

    http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/School-District-Says-Deaf-Student-Not-Required-to-Change-Name-167784235.html

    Grand Island Public Schools has not changed the sign language name of any student, nor is it requiring any student to change how his or her name is signed. 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 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits the school district from disclosing personally identifiable information concerning any student without the prior written consent of the student’s parent.
    Therefore, the school district cannot discuss any particular student or identify any particular student.

    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!

    –bks

  30. Rod Johnson said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 8:40 am

    @bks: thanks. When local TV news puts out a story that just seems hard to believe, always consider the possibility that that's because it's not true.

    So is whats going on here that Hunter's name sign is not standard ASL but SEE, and the school is trying to teach ASL? I had never heard of SEE before but judging from the Wikipedia article it's somewhat controversial.

  31. Ellen K. said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    Theodore: Last time I checked, the cross used to be a instrument of torture (or at least execution) centuries before any of us were alive, but not in the present or recent history.

  32. L said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Last time I checked, a Roman shortsword was a weapon that used to be carried in battle, although in general practice it was set aside around the same time that crosses were. A Roman shortsword is still a weapon, all the same.

  33. AverageJoe said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    The list of everyday school supplies that could easily be used as a lethal weapon is extensive to say the least.

  34. Acilius said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    My first thought was about Hunter's last name. Is he a right-handed Spanjer or a left-handed Spanjer, and does the school district know that even left-handed Spanjers have peaceful uses?

  35. Nathan said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    @Rod Johnson: If it's just about the different sign language options, this is still a problem. Nowadays it's considered a bad thing for a school to try to stop a student from speaking his own language.

  36. bks said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 11:31 am

    The only problem, Nathan, is that the parents went off the deep end.

    The father of a deaf 3-year-old is accusing Grand Island Public Schools administrators of trying to force the child to change how his name is signed because the sign looks like a gun.

    A school district official denied it.

    http://www.omaha.com/article/20120829/NEWS/708299916/1685

    –bks

  37. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    Birth records in south-central Pennsylvania include boys who have been named Colt, Hunter, Remington, and Bow Hunter in recent years. I haven't noticed any babies named Archer, though.

  38. Roger Lustig said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    @Barbara: I went to grade school in the 60s with a girl named Archer. Know some women named Hunter too.

    Now, was Scout her name or nickname in To Kill a Mockingbird?

  39. Brett said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    @Roger Lustig: I believe her name was Jean Louise Finch. My impression of the subtext was that the name was chosen by her mother, and Atticus wasn't as thrilled with it.

  40. Glen Gordon said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    What a clever way to silence a deaf kid… if you're into that sort of thing.

  41. Joe1959 said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

    @Ellen K

    Now if only the Governments of Iran and Sudan would update their criminal codes by a couple of thousand years that might be true…

  42. Rod Johnson said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    @Nathan: perhaps, but it's a whole different kind of bad thing, no? Obviously the reason this story got any play at all is because it plays into the popular narrative of "big government" overreacting to guns and oppressing the little people, blah blah. If it's really about trying to get a student to use ASL instead of SEE (which isn't a language), it's not quite as compelling, is it? It's more like trying to get kids to write cursive in rather than printing. And if that happened and the parents went to the newspapers with a story about how their child was being demeaned by this cursive thing, hopefully they would be met with the mass eyeroll they deserved.

  43. Rod Johnson said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

    @Glen Gordon: are you just trolling? Or are you really suggesting that someone wants to "silence a deaf kid"?

  44. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    I probably lack the competence to follow the details of the SEE/ASL controversy as such, so maybe the metaphor implicit in what follows doesn't work, but it strikes me that while most of us want schools to teach kids how to use standard orthography rather than just spell how they feel (or even how their parents spell, frankly, if their parents deviate from the local prestige standard), we also want the schools to respect the oft-idiosyncratic (at least in the U.S.) spellings of students' personal names (and if necessary expect their classmates to master those idiosyncratic spellings when referring in writing to their bearers) — even though the use of some non-standard variant spellings of common names will appear to be (and statistically probably is) a signal about the relevant parents' comparative lack of formal education. Now, maybe that's what this actual school is actually doing, and the whole thing is the result of parental misunderstanding plus bad journalism, or maybe the school's bureaucratic-sounding response is not the full story either.

  45. Chris C. said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    When local TV news puts out a story that just seems hard to believe, always consider the possibility that that's because it's not true.

    @Rod Johnson — I think the larger issue here is that this wasn't all that hard to believe.

  46. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    @Jonathan, those are excellent quotes from R. v. Bentham (don't think judges on this side of the Atlantic quote Ulpian very often these days . . .), but the fact that it got to the court of last resort with the government arguing unsuccessfully to the contrary is some evidence that within the highly specialized genre of legal discourse it was a closer question that someone coming to it cold might have supposed. Note also that the outcome might have been different if the statutory language had made clear that the prohibited conduct was simulating possession of a firearm rather than possessing a simulated firearm. The bulge under the jacket that might or might not be a gun is certainly a stratagem employed by robbers in the U.S. as well and it presumably works well enough (i.e. some meaningful percentage of victims do not in practice feel comfortable calling the bluff and refusing to hand over what is demanded without requiring the robber to demonstrate more clearly that the bulge is an actual gun) that rational legislators could want to do something about it.

  47. Jon Weinberg said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

    @Chris C. — please, no. I know nothing about the facts of the Spanjer episode. Speaking more generally, though, I see a lot of discourse these days that goes something like this: "It's scandalous that Person A did this bad thing. Oh, Person A didn't in fact do that thing? Well then, it's scandalous, and reflects badly on Person A, that it's so easy to believe he did it!" The fact that the false accusation fits right in with the speaker's worldview, though, says more about the speaker than it does about Person A. A better approach is to draw lessons from things that actually happen, but not from things that don't.

  48. Chris C. said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    @Jon — Worldviews are not formed in a vacuum. Many of us who have dealt with school systems in recent decades have encountered some sort of forehead-slapping bureaucratic idiocy sooner or later, and that experience primes us to find such stories credible. It's good that it didn't actually happen as reported, but don't presume to lecture me on what and what not to expect.

  49. Rod Johnson said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    @Chris C.: Maybe. Or maybe, as Jon suggests, part of the problem is that people say things like "we've passed the point of ridiculousness and entered the Twilight Zone of administrative absurdity," but then when it turns out to be a false alarm, they never say "oh huh, guess I was wrong." Instead they just keep insisting that facts be damned, they were right in principle, because some other stuff happened before.

    You say "experience primes us to find such stories credible," but is it actual experience of factual events that primes us, or is it merely previous instance of priming. As an example, anyone who has had to beat back the unending stream of Obama conspiracy theory chain mail from relatives or friends can recognize a place where "experience priming us to find such stories credible" has reached escape velocity and no longer much relationship to actual fact.

    So regardless of your personal experience I think the general principle holds that if something sounds too crazy to be true, it probably should be examined with some skepticism.

  50. Glen Gordon said,

    August 29, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    Rod Johnson: "@Glen Gordon: are you just trolling? Or are you really suggesting that someone wants to 'silence a deaf kid'?"

    Evidently. Did you not read the story?

  51. Saskia said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 7:31 am

    That has to be one of the stupidest things I have heard in a long, long time.

  52. John Swindle said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    Standardization isn't what you want in a name sign. Like a brand name, it's better if it's distinctive. There can still be the occasional argument that a brand name or a name sign is offensive, but that shouldn't apply to this one. As a former guardian and foster parent of a deaf-blind child I'm quite prepared to believe that the parents did run into some utter nonsense.

    On the other hand, the district's response as reported by bks is completely reasonable. They can't disclose confidential information about students. They haven't told any of their current students with hearing impairment to change their name signs. They promote American Sign Language. Good for them!

  53. Rod Johnson said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 8:39 am

    @Glen Gordon: "Evidently. Did you not read the story?"

    Not responsive.

  54. L said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    > Standardization isn't what you want in a name sign. Like a
    > brand name, it's better if it's distinctive.

    I am completely unable to communicate in sign (of any variety) so I respond purely out of analogy to spoken language.

    In spoken language, names are frequently standardized – how many Johns and Marys do you know? There is often cultural or familial importance in choosing the name of a child, and often it takes the form of honoring another by re-using their name for the newborn. All cultures seem to settle on a set of commonly used (standard?) names.

    At the same time, novel names also occur very frequently in spoken language – nicknames, neologisms, or loan-names from other languages which are distinctive (or at least uncommon) in the borrower language… not to mention common names oddly spelled or otherwise varied, traditionally male names given to females, etc etc etc.

    It strikes me that, in general, neither "standard" or "distinctive" names have an advantage in all cases. I can't help but think that this operates in sign as well.

    Hunter is a fairly common name, in the United States at least. It's probably more common in some regions and so forth but it's certainly not a name that causes double-takes. Why wouldn't a common name, have a common sign to represent it?

  55. John Swindle said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

    L asked why a common name wouldn't have a common sign to represent it. Part of the answer is that a name sign doesn't necessarily refer to a spoken name. Like the spoken name, it refers to a person.

    Ran Ari-Gur describes typical name signs above. As with spoken names, duplication or near-duplication is inevitable in a sufficiently large group–and the persons with similar spoken names may or may not be those who have similar signed names.

  56. J. Goard said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    That sign looks about as much like a weapon as "pow" sounds like one.

  57. L said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 9:43 am

    @John Swindle – Thanks, but you raise more questions in my mind than you answer. Perhaps this is a matter unique to deaf culture, but for all the same reasons that most hearing cultures develop a stock of names, I would have expected deaf culture to do similarly.

    For example, when Hunter has grown up and (we all hope) become a beloved and admirable adult, hearing culture might respond by naming some children Hunter in his honor – or rather, parents of newborns who love and admire Hunter might do this. Would they not, if using sign, use his name-sign in the same way?

    I gather not, but I'm left wondering why this common pattern breaks?

    On another tack (not tact) I wonder what the school would do about a hearing child named, say, Guns Kill Bang-Bang Smith? In the world of Moon Unit and River Phoenix, we can't rule it out.

  58. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 11:32 am

    Lord Rodger added: "Dominus membrorum suorum nemo videtur: no-one is to be regarded as the owner of his own limbs, says Ulpian in D.9.2.13. pr"

    Tully, my masters?

  59. John Swindle said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 3:29 am

    @L: Cultures may have different expectations about whether and in what way names should be unique or should be reused as a sign of honor to a predecessor. I suspect someone may already have researched this for some set of spoken languages.

    What I said about name signs came from my limited knowledge of some deaf people in Hawaii, with the skewing factors of me being a hearing person of North American origin; and my foster daughter, my supposed entree to the deaf community, having been blind as well as deaf. The name signs I remembered seemed intended (but not required) to be unique.

    In America you can have a hearing family with the father named George Foreman and five sons named "George Foreman" and called by nicknames or middle names.

    In China you don't give a baby the same name as a known ancestor. If the name sounds similar you at least use a different character.

    Just call me "Talks Through His Hat."

  60. se1234 said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    It's amazing how stupid this story is and how mindless the comments are under most articles about it. The school is trying to teach the kid how to spell his name in ASL(american sign language). The father doesn't want his kid to use ASL, only SEE(signing exact english) and he's asked for an ASL->SEE translator for a 3 year old. Funny how that's missing from this article.

    It should be obvious that this is one of those axe grindy subculture things that people get bent out of shape over at every chance they get. Read the administrator's statement again with the translator request in mind and it becomes clear what he's saying between the lines, since he can't outright talk about any particular student due to whatever policies and laws.

  61. L said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    I see that I was overgeneralizing from Western naming practices which, varied as they are, often reuse names – though very differently in different cultures. Apparently, in deaf culture (and apparently in Chinese hearing culture) this principle doesn't apply. I have crossed a Grician line unknowingly, and appreciate the very kind correction.

    But, now it raises yet another question for me… if name-signs are intended to be unique and unrelated to the spoken name, how is it that Hunter's name sign is so literal an adaptation of his spoken name? Not only is there the obvious "bang bang" quality, but that detail about the "twisted barrels" turns out to be the letter R – hence, "Hunt-R."

    This may again be a hearing person overthinking things he knows nothing about, and in truth I'd more likely get the name Gunnar than Hunter from this sign, but still.

    Is it possible that in some way, this touches on the SEE/ASL controversy? Might there be a SEE subculture, significantly different from an ASL subculture – and if so, at what point do we stop speaking (yspte) of "deaf culture" and instead use "deaf cultures" in the plural?

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