Students in Philadelphia public schools can now officially change their names and preferred pronouns to transition to a different gender, whether their parents approve or not.
School officials sent an email to principals on Tuesday with the big news, Billy Penn reports.
“For transgender and gender nonconforming students, the challenge to participate in Google Classroom is real as their dead name appears on the screen for all to see and the student to feel the negative impact,” the email read.
“All students, even those under 18, have the right to change their name in our district’s student information system, and thus in all our systems that receive data from the SIS, without parental consent and without a court order.”
That wasn’t previously the case. Philadelphia teachers acknowledged students’ preferred gender, name and pronouns in class, but official school records maintained students’ legal names and actual gender.
When schools transferred to online learning amid the coronavirus, students’ real names were displayed beside their pictures, which embarrassed some queer and transgender teens, according to the news site.
Kensington Health Sciences Academy “nonbinary” teacher Maddie Luebbert brought the issue to the attention of the school board on April 30 and officials jumped into action.
“I have never seen an issue raised at a school board meeting and two weeks later, more or less, a solution to it coming from on high,” Luebbert told Billy Penn. “It was so surprising and uplifting to me, the immediate response and that the problem was taken seriously.”
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Luebbert and other LGBTQ advocates are now working to promote the new policy to students and staff.
“My major concern is for teachers to understand how to be affirming to queer kids,” Luebbert said. “I think it’s really about informing students of their rights and making sure they understand that a principal or teacher can’t take this away.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
The move — announced in an email to principals this week and expected to be formally presented to the school board on Thursday — follows a groundbreaking 2016 district policy meant to ensure “safety, equity, and justice for all students regardless of their gender identity or gender expression so that they can reach their fullest human and intellectual potential.” Students do not need parental approval, a court order, or evidence of medical transition, and the policy also applies to the bathrooms students are permitted to use and the sports teams aligned with their gender identity.
It’s unclear how many students in the district are impacted by the policy, because officials don’t track the information. But board member Mallory Fix Lopez said she pushed Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr. to address the issue over concerns about the “trauma” students experience when called by their birth name.
“We’re at a time where so much is out of our control, but this is something that is in our control,” she told the Inquirer. “To me, it’s not so much about a name, but an identity.”