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Students now able to change their display name across all school platforms

The change is especially beneficial for trans and non-binary students who don’t go by their legal name

Danny Edwards, A&E Editor
Originally published November 21, 2020

Info-graphic by Sam Rainville

Info-graphic by Sam Rainville

This year the Seattle Public Schools district implemented Microsoft Teams as our way of having remote classes. It is well documented that SPS and Microsoft have had a software agreement for years, but ignoring the immense amount of technological issues, there was one glaring problem with Teams: students’ inability to change their display names. 

By now, every SPS student should have received an email from the superintendent in their Outlook school email. The email reads, “Did you know that if you go by a name other than your legal name, you can change it so your preferred name shows up on Teams and other online settings? You or your parent/guardian can contact your school counselor and ask that they update your name in PowerSchool.”

This is a huge improvement from the last system. Instead of trying to contact someone at the district office, students can now send an email to their school counselor to get their display name changed everywhere. 

Students have been told that they are required to sign in with their district emails on Microsoft Teams calls to protect the educational environment and to make meetings more secure from people who aren’t supposed to be there, but this meant that students’ full legal names were appearing to their teachers and peers at all times. 

For trans and non-binary students whose preferred names may be very different from their legal names, this was detrimental. Some trans and non-binary students can effectively be outed without their consent in front of their entire class. In other words, most teachers and peers will look twice if a student says that their name is actually Josh, not Madison. 

Trans and non-binary students deserve privacy in regards to their deadname. In fact, the “Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action: Transgender and Gender-Expansive Student Rights and Supports” document signed by Superintendent Juneau March 5 clearly states: “Students have the right to be addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school.”

I reached out to the district about changing my display name several times through email and phone call with no response over the course of two weeks.

After contacting the superintendent’s office I received an email from someone in customer service. This person assured me that they were relaying my message to tech support and the “decision making Admin at SPS.” They also told me that these kinds of issues are addressed “on a case by case basis.” 

The next day I received another email from the same person saying that they were still “investigating” and that they were “having a hard time connecting with [their] tech team.”

After receiving no more information, I attended a general SPS board meeting to give a statement about the issue. I went second in public testimonies and spoke for two minutes. When I had finished speaking, I left the meeting and received an email from a senior legal counsel at SPS.

This person informed me that they had directed the SPS tech team to change my name to my preferred name across all platforms, including Microsoft Teams. 

By the following Monday, this change had gone into effect. 

The senior legal counsel I emailed was very kind and apologetic. They said to me in an email, “There is no reason for you to need to speak at a board meeting to have this done.”

Students facing this same issue now only need to contact their school counselor to have their problem amended. 

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Students now able to change their display name across all school platforms