Local deaf community reacts to signing controversy at Nebraska school
Posted at: 08/30/2012 7:02 PM
| Updated at: 08/31/2012 11:53 AM
By: Joangel Concepcion | WHEC.com
Parents of a deaf three year old boy in Nebraska say school officials want to change the way he signs his name. The story has made national headlines and was featured on the “Today Show” Thursday. The question is whether signing the boy’s name constitutes an inappropriate gesture.
It’s certainly being discussed in Rochester’s large deaf community. Professors at RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf say their shocked by all of this.
To sign his name, Hunter, he crosses his fingers on both hands and moving his hands up and down. These parents were shocked by the school’s request and they weren’t the only ones. News10NBC spoke to several members of the Rochester deaf community and some of the interviews were conducted with the help of an RIT translator.
Leisa Bowling and Sam Holcomb teach American Sign Language at RIT. Both are hard of hearing and both were shocked by recent headlines.
“That sign it doesn't look like anything. It doesn't relate to a weapon. It's not like I'm taking a gun and shooting at you and making a sound like that.”
The three-year-old little boy lives in Nebraska. His name is Hunter and he is also deaf. His parents say school administrators are demanding a change to the way he signs his name. They claim the school says it resembles a gun. Local ASL teachers say it is all about understanding the deaf culture.
“The sign gun. That's the noun sign gun. If I'm talking about pointing at you and shooting that's the verb.”
But these professors say Hunter’s gesture is not a noun or a verb. It’s just like any other nickname.
“I understand why the school has its concerns. They see the sign and it maybe looks like a weapon to them but it's really not.”
“Hunter, that name is a sweet name. It matches his personality.”
The professors say we can all learn a thing or two about this incident especially that sign language isn’t just a gesture. It involves eye contact and vocals and just like words depends how much of a threat is on the gesture itself. In this case, coming from a 3-year-old boy, these professors say not so much.
“Children are very innocent. You don't have to make it threatening to them. You have to be careful.”
The Grand Public Island School District in Nebraska issues a written statement saying “It has not changed the sign language name of any student nor is it requiring any student to change.”