Deaf Child May Have to Change Name Because of 'Sign'

By: Kim Eiten Email
By: Kim Eiten Email

Grand Isle, Nebraska- August 29, 2012

The family of Hunter Spanjer, the preschooler asked to change the way he signs his name, said the support has been tremendous.

"The encouragement and support is amazing," Brian Spanjer, Hunter's father, said. "It's been more than I could have asked for and it's been extremely helpful."

But, that's not the case for Grand Island Public Schools.

They said they've been receiving hundreds of angry calls and emails, even death threats.

A statement from GIPS Communications Coordinator Jack Sheard said there's more to the story.

It reads, "The sign language techniques taught in the school district are consistent with the standards of the Nebraska Department of Education and ASL [American Sign Language]."

It goes on to say, "Grand Island Public Schools is not requiring any current student with a hearing impairment to change his or her sign language name."

The Nebraska Department of Education told Nebraska Central News, there are no state regulations for students using sign language.

They said those come at the district level.

Sheard says the school is working with the family. He said first priority is protecting their student.

The ACLU is getting involved in the case.

A letter from the organization to the school calls it a question of a students' form of chosen speech.

It reads, "A parent's choice of name for his child is one of the most personal aspects of the parent-child relationship and the district cannot step into the middle of that constitutionally protected relationship."

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