Staff Editorial: New district guidelines regarding gender non-conforming students may cause more harm than good

The JagWire staff recommends that the Board of Education redrafts and reassess the guidelines

JagWire staff

As the new school year begins, so does the age-old practice, known all too well by students and teachers alike, of getting to know new names. But, for the first time this year, De Soto district teachers will learn student preferred names, and in many cases pronouns, preferred  under a new set of guidelines titled “Guidance Related to Gender Identity.”

The guidelines say that teachers are to report to administration if a student wants to go by a different name or pronouns, and they believe it could indicate a gender change. Administration would then contact a counselor and social worker, who would then reach out to the student’s guardian for permission to call the student what they prefer.

As the JagWire staff discussed what we would promote as our opinion on the guidelines, we did so knowing this would be one of the more controversial opinions we would publish in a staff editorial, with it is a guidance that directly affects Mill Valley students. We came to the conclusion that the guidelines, though well intended, are doing more harm than good.

It has not gone without notice that those who created the guidelines likely genuinely wanted to help protect the school and teachers from seemingly going behind parents’ backs and having to field through lawsuits, but ultimately the JagWire staff believes that students should be put first.

The guidelines tell administrators that they are required to report a gender-related name change to guardians, and this is not safe for many gender non-conforming students. For gender non-conforming teenagers, a parent finding out their gender before they are ready to talk about it can not only be traumatic, but also life-altering. 

According to the Washington Post, LGBTQ youth represent 7% of the homeless population in the United States, and the main causes are due to familial rejection leading to running away or being kicked out. 

Though in many cases, students are alerted that their parents will be contacted, this is not enough. Students should be involved in a conversation about their safety in expressing gender identity at home before talking to a parent  before the changes are considered.

Additionally, while it is important to approach certain aspects of this process on a case-by-case basis, the guidelines as a whole should be much more specific on what the process would actually look like for a student interested in having a gender change approved by the district.

Specificity in guidelines would best be gained by creating an actual policy passed by the Board of Education, in which a gender change process is clearly outlined and input from gender non-conforming students is valued in addition to parents, teachers, counselors and administrators. Also, if this policy is created, everyone affiliated with the district should be notified so that nobody is caught off guard by its existence.

The guidelines may have been created to support teachers and parents, but in doing so they have pushed the people whom it actually concerns to the side: students. A new policy should be created to clarify the process and gender non-conforming students should be consulted every step of the way.

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