Education /

North Carolina Schools List Students By 'Chosen Name' Rather Than By Legal Name

The change has been long sought after by LGBTQ interest organizations

Public schools in North Carolina will use transgender students’ chosen names on their records rather than their legal names following a decision from the state’s superintendent.

The Department of Public Instruction sent a notice to schools on March 4 saying its online administrative software, PowerSchool, would be updated to show “preferred name” on most records. 

The campaign for Southern Equality had sent an open letter signed by more than 300 people to Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s School Superintendent, in March of 20202 requesting he make certain changes on behalf of transgender students. The requests included listing students by preferred names rather than their legal names, distinguishing between “legal gender” and “gender” and adding “non-binary” as a gender option in the online database.

The group said PowerSchool’s existing student information system was “set up in a way that violates the safety and privacy of transgender students.”

“For most transgender students, being confronted with one’s birth name (referred to commonly in the trans community as one’s ‘dead name’) can trigger feelings of anxiety and dysphoria,” Southern Equality wrote.

Southern Equality argues that transgender students’ privacy may be compromised by a PowerSchool-generated username or an auto-created roster read by a teacher. 

Johnson did not comply with the group’s request. 

The announcement from DPI comes almost a year later, leading critics of the policy to believe it was given the green light by the state’s current School Superintendent, Catherine Truitt.

“It’s not up to the public school system to change a student’s name or his or her gender identity,” Jim Quick, a spokesman for the N.C. Values Coalition, said in a statement to The News & Observer. “North Carolina law allows for changing birth certificates if a person has fully transitioned.”

“That is the only circumstance under which the school system should be allowed to change a student’s name or designated sex. Public schools should not be used as a tool for social engineering,” Quick said. 

The Coalition’s executive director Tami Fitzgerald told the Charlotte Observer in February that she thought the policy change was influenced by President Joe Biden’s LGBTQ initiatives. 

“This goes back to the Biden agenda to elevate transgenderism in schools and to use schools as laboratory for experiments instead of looking at what’s best for children,” Fitzgerald said.

N.C. Family Policy Council President John Rustin told The News & Observer that it could be detrimental to allow minors to make decisions that may have unknown, permanent ramifications in the future.

“This is a very dramatic change from our public school system,” Rustin said. “It would enable students who are very impressionable, who are suffering from gender dysphoria to be able to make very important changes on their school records that will follow them for the rest of their life.”

In a statement to Education First Alliance, Truitt’s office said schools had been made aware of the change to PowerSchool prior to its implementation.

DPI made this change to be consistent with court rulings and federal legislation,” the superintendent’s press secretary told the organization. “There has been ongoing litigation around Title IX, and we are obligated to comply with all federal laws addressing discrimination.”

North Carolina has often been at the forefront of the debate surrounding educational policies related to transgenderism.

In March of 2016, it passed the nation’s first policy requiring students to access locker rooms and bathrooms based on the gender on their birth certificate. Lawmakers in the state have also proposed legislation that would mandate high school and college athletes to play on sports teams that match their legal gender rather than their gender identity.

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