Blog: Publications need transgender name policies

By Kris Brown

Fishers High School Publications adviser and IHSPA board member

Approximately 1.4 million people identify as transgender according to a study done by the Williams Institute.  In my school of over 3,200, I have taught at least one transgender student each year for the last three years.  As students become more comfortable identifying themselves as transgender, it brings a new challenge for student publications. How do we identify these students in the school newspaper and yearbook?

Our editorial boards sat down and discussed this last year after we had a student request to be identified by a different name in the yearbook.  In the 2016 yearbook, Audrey wanted her name changed to Ethan.

This is a fairly new issue in schools.  Some schools I talked to had no policy. Others stated that they would only use the legal name as shown on the school’s official records.

After much discussion, both the yearbook and newspaper decided that they would use the student’s preferred name in most instances.  When a student is interviewed and they are asked for their name and its spelling, we use that for stories and captions.  This would be true for an Elizabeth that went by Lizzie or for an Audrey who wanted to be called Ethan.

The thornier issue was what to do with the mug shots in the yearbook.  The school photographer uses the legal name for students, as supplied by the school.  For that, the yearbook editorial board decided that they would make the name change to the mug shot if we had a written request from the parent.  Ethan’s father contacted us to request the change and was even willing to pay to have the page pulled out of submitted status, so we made the change.  We had another student this year who wanted to be Tony instead of Tanya. Again, the parent contacted us and we made the change.

Our student publication policy may not be suited to all schools, but I would encourage student publications to sit down and determine their policies before this issue comes up so you will have a ready response for the student, the parent and the school community.

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