New procedure makes schools less inclusive


Cartoon by Paige Collins

Prowler Staff

School should be a safe space for students. For those who prefer a name other than the one that they were given at birth, district procedure gets in the way of acceptance in classrooms. 

Per current District 202 procedure, if a student wants to be called by a different name or use different pronouns, the teacher must obtain parental permission. 

This seems to be a new practice. Traditionally, on the first day of school, teachers read through the class roster and announce, “Let me know if you go by a different name.” For example, if Mackenzie wants  to be referred to as Mack, that change was made. Students with unrelated nicknames had also been respected. For example, Kyle to Sam. 

This new rule puts unnecessary and avoidable pressure on both the student and the teacher. Recognizing and accepting oneself as a teenager is hard. When students confide in a teacher and ask to be referred to by a preferred name or pronoun, a teacher should not have to seek permission.

While these measures are in place and affecting all students and particularly members  of the LGBTQ+ community in our district, the actual procedure is hard to find on the district website. 

Since the action is not clearly outlined, a student would have to be denied being called by their preferred name or pronoun until parental permission is granted. This could cause unnecessary embarrassment and  feelings of rejection, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

A 2020 survey conducted by the Trevor Project concluded that LGBTQ+ youth are more than 1.75% more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression than their classmates, raising to 2.4% for those identifying as non-binary or transgender. This makes acceptance essential to student health and safety. 

Sadly, this name or pronoun change conversation may be uncomfortable or unsafe for students with unaccepting households. If their parent or guardian is dismissive of their identity, then the student may feel distressed at home as well as at school.

This procedure also presents a moral and ethical dilemma for teachers. Teachers have to find a way to make all students feel heard and accepted while still trying to follow district procedure. Some teachers have turned to referring to individuals by their last names. This still does not fully validate all students’ name and pronoun preference.  

North has worked hard to build an inclusive environment with the GSA Club, SEL lessons and teaching students about mindfulness. This procedure is forcing the school to take steps backward. Removing this procedure is a decision that would benefit students now, as they attend high school, and later, looking back and feeling they were accepted and respected for their identity while attending a school in District 202.

According to District 202’s official mission statement, the district “fosters each individual’s value, uniqueness, and importance and promotes lifelong learning in an ever-changing society.” A necessary step to fulfill this mission is to celebrate all students “uniqueness” by accepting and respecting student identity.