TAJE

Looking at Transgender Policies for Your Publication

Sitting in his desk on the first day of school, Atlas is all too familiar with what’s about to happen. The teacher begins to call the roll. “Janey?” the teacher says. Atlas, a transgender male, quietly replies, “Here.” If he’s lucky, the teacher will accept his preferred name. If not, he’s forced to be addressed by a name he no longer uses.

With more students identifying as transgender, the need for a policy on how to name these students in scholastic publications is becoming a necessity. While some publications are able to create their own policies, others have administrators chiming in. There are several ways advisers can deal with this issue. The key is to develop a written policy that treats all students equally. If you use preferred names or nicknames for some students, the same should be done for transgender students or others with non-conforming gender identities.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Some administrators insist publications use only a student’s name as it appears on a birth certificate, many citing legal reasons. Texas Education Code requires that a student be identified by his or her last name as it appears on a birth certificate. It does not address the use of a student’s first name. The state also requires school districts to maintain a permanent academic achievement record, such as a transcript, that includes a student’s full legal name and gender. The law does not prohibit the use of preferred names or nicknames in other purposes.

FOLLOW THE AP STYLEBOOK
The AP Stylebook is often our go-to guide on how to handle such situations. It instructs writers to use a person’s preferred name and pronouns. In some cases, they/them/their are acceptable as singular gender-neutral pronouns. See entries for transgender, name changes or they/them/their.

WRITTEN REQUESTS OR NAME CHANGE FORMS
Many schools and/or publications now allow a parent or legal guardian to submit a written request for a name change. This can be in the form of a letter or email. If the student is 18, some advisers will take the request directly from the student. These requests are required from all students who wish to use a nickname, and in some cases, those who wish to go by their middle name.

Name change forms, whether they go through administration or directly to the adviser, are becoming more popular. Trinity High School uses a change request form that, in addition to preferred names, addresses attire for the senior portrait section. Make sure to keep all written requests on file.

YEARBOOK ONLY
For yearbooks, a less formal way of dealing with preferred names and nicknames is to use the student’s legal name in the portrait section and preferred name throughout the rest of the book. This option can also apply to students who wish to go by a shortened version of their first name or a middle name.

OTHER RESOURCES
Since issues that affect transgender students in public school are relatively new, the Texas Association of School Boards published a document, “Legal Issues Related to Transgender Students,” in March 2017 to address situations that school districts may ultimately face, from bullying to facility use. This is a guide, so be sure to check your local district or campus policies.

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