North Carolina Schools: Must Use Child’s Chosen, Not Legal Name in School Records

In this Dec.13, 2018 photo, Laura, a transgender girl, looks from behind a glass door during recess at the Amaranta Gomez school in Santiago, Chile.
Esteban Felix/AP Photo

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has decided to cater to transgender students in the state by directing schools to use a student’s chosen name rather than their legal name in school records.

The chosen name will be used for state reports, report cards, grade books, and other documents but the official state transcript will contain the student’s legal name.

The move comes after years of lobbying by LGBT activists, and some parents and teachers, specifically over the state’s PowerSchool information system, which contains a student’s legal name.

An ABC affiliate in North Carolina reported that Craig White, a “supportive schools director” for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said he has been trying to get the PowerSchool program to use chosen rather than legal names since 2017.

White said the most common reason for families to contact him was that their student either had experienced being outed at school or was at risk of that happening. He said the problem got worse during the pandemic, when schools became more reliant on digital platforms, which would often pull the student’s name –their legal name — from school records.

”All of a sudden, these kids would log on to do their English class online and they would see their old name — what a lot of trans students call their dead name, because that person no longer exists,” White said. “They would see their dead name facing them and all of their classmates.”

The media outlet interviewed a teenage girl who has changed her name and is living as a boy at school. Her classmates found out she is a biological girl on a seating chart on the PowerSchool system when she was in ninth grade.

“Even though I didn’t want to necessarily be out to my entire class as trans, I had to be because of PowerSchool,” the girl, just called “Ash” in the story, said. “It sent me right back down into some very deep depression. Some of what I was feeling before I even came out. It was just awful.”

It remains to be seen if all of the schools in the state will implement the guidance and what long term effects the practice might have. 

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