Florida School District Tweaks Distance Learning to Allow Trans Students to Use ‘Chosen’ Instead of Birth Name

AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus

The coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of schools across the United States, leaving districts scrambling to arrange online learning. In Florida that included catering to minors who say it is upsetting that their birth name instead of their chosen name is used when logging in and, in some cases, “outing” those students who have not revealed they are “transgender.”

A school district in Jacksonville, Florida, is tweaking its log on protocol to allow students to change their name, according to USA Today:

When students log on to Duval HomeRoom — the Duval County school district’s online hub for distance learning — their school-assigned email account or a Microsoft TEAMS video session with their teacher, their legal name is displayed for all to see. For transgender students who go by a different name, it’s a constant sting.

“Each and every time I log on to the website to complete my daily assignments, seeing my birth name makes me uncomfortable,” said one student, whom The Florida Times-Union did not name for privacy. “It also makes me uncomfortable to interact with other students, as well as my teachers because I don’t want people to see my birth name on the screen, I want them to see my true one instead, that I plan to go by for the rest of my life.”

The student said the practice makes day-to-day tasks like attendance a nuisance because they don’t want teachers and classmates to perceive them differently.

“Some of my classmates don’t even know that I am transgender,” a Duval County student said in the USA Today report. “Seeing my birth name is a dead giveaway to that.”

“When home learning was launched due to the pandemic, the district developed a process to provide support in the virtual-learning environment,” Duval Schools spokeswoman Sonya Duke-Bolden said in the USA Today report. “The district has been actively providing support to students whenever issues, concerns or challenges arise.”

The article noted that the policy has nothing to do with making a legal name change but only applies to the school’s online login system.

“No school districts in Florida are changing or removing a student’s legal name without a court order,” said Ian Siljestrom, the associate director of the Safe and Healthy Schools program at Equality Florida. He went on:

School districts are simply adding an affirmed name within their existing student information system to ensure that legal names are not a barrier to student success. When an affirmed name is used, a student’s mental and emotional health improves, positively impacting their grades and attendance.

Duke-Bolden said in the USA Today article that other schools in Florida are also putting these kinds of measures in place but that it various from school to school, including one that requires a note from parents if the student is a minor — something LGBT activists say is a “red flag” and that children know themselves better than their parents.

“According to Trinity Baker, student support coordinator at JASMYN — Jacksonville’s LGBTQ youth center — a parent sign-off is a red flag,’” USA Today reported. She added:

That would be an issue in outing students who we know don’t know the safety of their home environments. I can see where we might see some pushback and negative responses to this, but we must trust our children to know themselves better than anyone else.

USA Today cites a report from the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center that claimed LGBT students are suffering being away from social clubs backed by Gay Straight Alliance, an organization that has pushed its agenda in U.S. public schools for decades.

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