From the Clocktower – Can we tolerate more ‘Zero Tolerance?’

By Kathi Bliss



I love reading the news during the first few weeks of school. Almost without exception, there is some school, somewhere, that comes up with a new and exciting way to take their rules a little too far.

This week, that story comes to us from Nebraska, where a school this week asked a 3-year-old to change his name.

Technically, I suppose, the school didn’t ask the little fella to change his name – just to change the sign that he uses to “say” his name. The child, Hunter, is deaf. And the Signing Exact English (SEE) –registered sign for his name is the index and middle fingers crossed together and waved. Someone at his new school, apparently, thought his sign motion looked as though he was shooting a gun.

It seems waving one’s hand in the motion that might appear to be shooting a gun is a violation of the school’s zero-tolerance weapons policy.

After reading this story, it took me a solid three hours to process it. During those three hours, I crossed my fingers and waved my hand. Repeatedly. And yes, the action is very, very similar to the hand gesture that I made when I was a small child and my brother and I chased one another around the house, shooting our imaginary guns.

It’s also strikingly similar to the hand gesture that I, and every other LHS student or alum, uses at the end of every football game when we lift our “lion’s paws” in the air and sing “Lockhart High Forever.” (Just cross your fingers and pull in your thumb, and you’ve got the sign for ‘Hunter Spanjer’ lifted over your head).

While I was thinking about this poor little guy and his family being caught in the middle of this foolishness, I started to wonder, “is it possible for a school to take a zero-tolerance policy too far?”

Given the glaring evidence of the Spanjer family’s situation in having a school ask them to change their child’s name…I’d say the answer to that question is a resounding yes. I wonder, where is the common sense? In Grand Island, Neb., common sense seems to still be on vacation.

I’m all for protecting our kids; I realize that we live in a vastly different world now than we did even when I was a child. But if we’re going to allow a school to outlaw the sign a child’s name because it looks similar to an imaginary gun, then where are we going to stop?

Are we next going to have schools telling us that we can’t even name our children names like Hunter or Colt? Will we be put in the position where we can’t even teach history, because history contains wars, and wars are fought with weapons? Are we going to have to stop “shooting” hoops?

I’m grateful that, at least for the moment, the children in my life attend school in a district where people still tend to react reasonably, and use a little bit of common sense while they go about the business of executing their policies. I hope that keeps.

After all, I’m quite fond and proud of my “lion’s paw,” and I’d hate to think that we might lose it because someone, somewhere, put their fingers in the same position to play an imaginary game of cops and robbers with their friends over the summer.


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