29 August 2012

The nonsense of "zero tolerance" in schools

Here is yet another in a seemingly-neverending series of incidents in which schools rigidly enforce "zero tolerance" of sex/drugs/violence/etc related matters.  In this case a three-year-old child deaf child who signs with his hands has been told to change his name sign because the hand gesture resembled the pointing of a gun.
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?

"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way," said Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue.

"It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E.," Brian Spanjer said. S.E.E. stands for Signing Exact English, Hunter's sign language. Hunter's name gesture is modified with crossed-fingers to show it is uniquely his own.
Source link, via Neatorama.

Addendum:  I just noticed that the boy's name is "Hunter," which may explain the hand sign he was taught to use.  Also this comment from the Reddit thread -
...the boy is using SEE instead of ASL. Read through to the related article, and you'll see that the school district teaches to deaf children with ASL instead of SEE (the former is much more common). What most likely happened is that the school is just trying to teach the boy ASL, perhaps starting with his name, so the parents ran to the news to create the story that the school is trying to change his name due to their gun policy, when it's actually because their teachers don't speak SEE.
- which, of course, would put the story in a different light.

16 comments:

  1. This cannot be true, can it? What does having such a hyper-sensitive system say about us as a people?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Zero-tolerance policies allow administrators to be lazy, to NOT administrate, to just enforce rules in a by-rote manner. You may as well just replace them with computers now and save a few bucks.

    Lurker111

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually, Hunter needs to learn one more sign--it only uses one finger.

    Lurker111

    ReplyDelete
  4. So why can't they sign H - U - N - T - E - R as individual letters?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does one expect a 3-and-a-half-year-old to be good at spelling six-letter words? I don't know.

      Delete
    2. ..and that isn't really the point anyway, is it? In what universe does a three yr-old pointing with his finger represent a threat to anyone? Why should he change signs even if he could just to appease an idiotic bureaucracy?

      It was such attitudes and inflexibility that led our family to homeschool in the first place.

      Delete
  5. This is truly nonsense, and it is totally ineffective anyway. When you consider they supposedly have a "zero tolerance" policy in place for drugs/sex/violence in the government schools, there sure is a LOT of drugs/sex/violence in government schools.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Those following this comment thread should also note the addendum I just put on the article which offers a different viewpoint on why the school may be trying to change the boy's hand sign.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Update, it appears the battle is over:
    "Grand Island Public Schools is not requiring any current student with a hearing impairment to change his or her sign language name."
    http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/School-District-Says-Deaf-Student-Not-Required-to-Change-Name-167784235.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. The addendum still doesn't make this OK. In Deaf culture you usually have a "Sign Name" .. this does not have to be ASL or SEE. It's simply something that identifies who you are. So even if his teachers do not "speak" SEE, it does not mean he needs reinvent a new name sign for himself.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sign_name

    ReplyDelete
  9. I knew a kid in school named Pornpot. I think he was Vietnames (but I'm sorry if I'm attributing the name to the wrong country of origin). As you'll note, the name has not one but TWO words that violate "zero tolerance." Asking Hunter to sign his name differently is no different than asking Pornpot to go by a different name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Note they were asking him to change he sign for his name, not to change his name per se.

      Delete
    2. But you see, they are asking him to change his name. It may be spelled the same on paper, but changing his sign would be like asking him to change the pronunciation.

      Who cares if I still get to write my name as Jeffery, if I am made to pronounce it as Joffery? It may even be similar to him, but still. A name is sacred. You don't infringe upon that for any reason.

      By the way minnesotastan I'm loving you blog, I found it a few days ago, still reading :)

      Delete
  10. Bruce Schneier on Zero-Tolerance Policies:

    "These so-called zero-tolerance policies are actually zero-discretion policies. They're policies that must be followed, no situational discretion allowed. [...]"

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sometimes I think the state of public education in this country (of which I am currently a consumer) is in fact a gigantic psych experiment to see how much Americans will tolerate. Anybody can cut funding until it pretty much stops working, but it takes a certain intelligence to come up with devious adversities like this.

    ReplyDelete

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