The Pepperbox

The Student News Site of Arcata High School

The Pepperbox

The Pepperbox

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Trans students relieved at new name change policy

“We needed something that was formal, something that clearly outlined what was and wasn’t going to be changed.”
Anthony Vasek

Administration took a step forward by altering their policy on school system name changes, making the entire process easier for trans students; Particularly, for those who are not supported by their families.

Junior reporter Alex Phelan wrote about hurdles trans students were facing with the old name change policy in Volume 96, Issue 3 of the Pepperbox.

Arcata High administrators have actually been working to change this system since last year, and the school board approved the new policy to begin this semester. The policy is district-wide, affecting McKinleyville, Pacific Coast, Six Rivers, and Mad River High Schools.

The main challenge of the old policy was that it required a parent or guardian to confirm a student’s name change. This form of verification could come in a few different forms, such as an email or handwritten letter. For many students, this was a massive obstacle since they are not supported by their families. 

“I forged mine,” an anonymous trans student said.

Parents who actually sought to help their children change their names found the process unclear, confusing, and frustrating.

“Sometimes parents would reach out. They’d speak to someone and get one message, but then not another,” academic counselor Anna Frary said. “Things weren’t always changed for the benefit of the student.”

Without an official policy for processing student name changes, records and requests could be easily lost in communication. 

“We needed something that was formal,” Frary, the original designer of the new name change form, said. “Something that clearly outlined what was and wasn’t going to be changed.”

The new name change form can be accessed on the AHS website under “Students and Families” and then “Online Forms.” A physical copy can also be requested in the attendance office.

“This is awesome! Not just for me, but for everybody who has, um, not so great parents,” another anonymous trans senior said. 

Parents can still fill out the form, but their approval is no longer required for the change to take place. However, if a student fills the form out on their own, a meeting will be held with administration to confirm that the student understands exactly what will and will not be changed.

In addition to not requiring any parental consent, students now have two distinct options when changing their names in the school system.

One option is to have a “preferred name” added beside their legal name, marked by a small flag in their student record. This will not change the name displayed on attendance rosters, report cards, student’s email addresses, yearbook, or diplomas. Basically, anything sent home or seen by family.

“It’s the safest option for students for whom there is a family concern,” Frary said. “If a substitute comes in, however, they may not see the preferred name on Synergy. Students might have to still let certain individuals know. It’s not perfect yet.”

Given that there are still some kinks to work out, many students are cautiously optimistic about this new option.

“Closeted students who aren’t out to their parents but are still really detrimented by being called the wrong name can have a transition period without having to put themselves in danger,” a closeted trans student said. “I only worry that teachers might slip up and say it to [the student’s] parents anyway.”

The other option is a system-wide name change, with only transcripts and other legal academic records retaining the old name. (As of this year, diplomas at Arcata High can display preferred names rather than legal ones.) This new name entirely replaces the name on-file in StudentVue and will be included in anything sent home to families, as well as the student’s email if the first two letters of the old and new name are different.

“Our identity is who we are, and we want people to know us as ourselves,” said Frary.

The form can be accessed here:

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About the Contributor
Anthony Vasek, Managing Editor
Anthony Vasek has been a reporter for the Pepperbox, a student-run publication with nearly a century of history, since 2022. This year he is excited to use his knowledge to take on an editorial role. His coverage revolves mostly around sensitive topics, such as mental health and drug use. He also does a great deal of graphic design, leading the class in InDesign during each layout session. Two articles of his have won both first and second place, respectively, in the Feature category of the Jackie Awards. Personally, he has a strong belief towards the supremacy of felines and fish.
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