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Policy vs. Practice: Why transgender students can’t change their name in the yearbook

Taylor Baker, Editor in Chief

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Every year the Marcullus yearbook staff receives complaints from transgender students who do not wish to have their legal name in the yearbook. Many transgender students choose to go by a preferred name, which is different from their legal name. Transgender students are a growing minority in schools, which is making school board revisit and rethink policies and procedures. Some of these students may feel ostracized from their peers simply because they were born in the wrong body and being reminded of their birth name can add to this isolation.


The issue comes into play when trans students go by a name that is not in the yearbook, which may out them to their peers. This could be a big source of stress for students who work hard to pass as a cisgender person (a person who was born as the gender they identify as). Having their legal name printed in the yearbook is not only a reminder to the student body, but also a personal reminder to the student for the rest of their life.


“Where we currently are is that, the practice that the highschool has taken, for the yearbook, that legal names be used. Now having said that, when I look at board policy, we don’t have anything specific that speaks to that,” stated Gary Verslues, Assistant Superintendent.


Yearbook advisor, Ms. Wittman, has stated that the protocol does not come from the yearbook staff or from her.


“We have had complaints from transgender students who would like their taken name (instead of their birth name) to appear next to portraits. I totally understand their position, and I have taken this concern and conversation to the principal Bob James. He checked with the Board of Education on the issue, and they stood by their policy of using legal names,” stated Wittman.


James says that since this is a community standard, the decision lies with the Board of Education, so he spoke to Mr. Verslues about what names are printed in the yearbook.


Wittman says the Board of Education would not change the policy when Mr. James asked, but Mr. Verslues states that the Board never had a policy to begin with, and that this is more of an issue of following what has been done in the past. The current protocol has been to use legal names to avoid any legal action that might be taken by a parent or student.


When school boards set out to write policies, they pull them from different entities. These sources are national and state associations, which write up sample policies specifically for schools to use. The Missouri School Board Association has two policies which state that schools should use the student’s preferred name for everything except transcripts, where they would use the legal name, but our school does not follow that rule because they have not formally adopted either policy.


“The district has sub-committees for policies…This is one I asked Dr. Shindorf, the Chief of Learning, my immediate supervisor, where we were with that because he’s on the policy committee, and he said we don’t have one. And so it’s one that will be reviewed and added to their list as far as ‘hey we need to adopt a policy, which one do we want to adopt?’” stated Verslues.


This issue boils down to two things. First, schools are in a unique position now when it comes to supporting the transgender student body, but the JCPS Board of Education is aware of the issue and they want to develop a clear policy.


Second, the yearbook staff is not in charge of creating policies for transgender students to change their name. One of their staff members, Salem Sanfilippo Solindas, has expressed his frustration on the subject.


“We’ve been asked personally by several students to change names in the yearbook, but it’s out of our control. Because of the current system, we’re forced to out transgender students, and that’s just not okay,” says Sanfilioppo Solindas.


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Policy vs. Practice: Why transgender students can’t change their name in the yearbook