The Wake County school system is telling schools they don’t need to notify parents of any child’s name or pronoun changes made before North Carolina’s Parents’ Bill of Rights became law in August.
In a memo sent to staff on Tuesday, Wake tells employees that the law only applies to requests for name changes made after Aug. 15 and covers changes for all students and not just transgender students. The memo includes guidance such as saying teachers shouldn’t use the new name or pronoun until parents have been notified.
“This requirement is not limited to transgender students and applies to all changes in names or pronouns used to refer to students that occur after August 15, 2023 including new nicknames (e.g. ‘Joe’ instead of ‘Joseph’ or ‘Liz’ instead of ‘Elizabeth),” according to Wake’s memo. “It does not apply to names or pronouns that were already in use before this school year.”
Schools are under a Jan. 1 deadline
The guidance comes as North Carolina public schools try to meet the General Assembly’s Jan. 1 deadline to put the new law into effect.
Wake is in the process of updating its parental involvement policy. The district sought public comment on the policy ahead of planned board votes in December.
The Asheville-based Campaign For Southern Equality released a legal memo last month accusing the Parents’ Bill of Rights of violating the federal Title IX law’s ban against sexual discrimination in federally funded educational programs. The group says the new law creates a hostile educational environment for LGBTQ+ students.
In the meantime, the group plans to file a federal Title IX complaint against the new law. It’s also urging school boards to seek a declaratory ruling from the state Department of Public Instruction on the potential Title IX violations..
What to do when a change is sought
Each Wake school will have a designated administrator to handle parent notifications prior to changes in use of student names and pronouns. When a request is made, staff should:
▪ Inform the student that the request will be relayed to the designated school administrator, who will follow up directly with the student.
▪ Refer the student to a school counselor if the student has questions or concerns.
▪ Refrain from using the new name or pronoun in conversation or in school records unless the designated administrator has confirmed that parental notification has been provided.
What not to do when a change is sought
The new Wake rules also includes things not to do. Staff are told not to:
▪ Notify parents themselves. (School administrators will handle parent notification in accordance with law.)
▪ Notify other staff. (School administrators will work through this process.)
▪ Offer personal guidance to the student on the name or pronoun change. (Students should be referred to school counselors if they are seeking such guidance.)
▪ Use the new name/pronoun before receiving confirmation from the designated administrator.
▪ Discourage students from sharing information with their parents.
Teachers and students ask for guidance
Wake has heard from several LGBTQ students and teachers who say they are fearful about how the law will be put into practice.
In October, Ginny Clayton, a teacher at Cary High and advisor to the school’s GSA Club (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) told the board that the law “has cast a shadow over my campus.”
Several current and former Wake students said teachers are now requiring LGBTQ students to have their parents fill out a form giving permission for all name and pronoun changes. Previously, the students said no parental notification was required as long as students weren’t requesting a change in school records.
The students asked Wake to tell teachers that the new law only requires parental notification and not permission.