VBCPS Staff Should Respect Preferred Names of Students


J Santiago Smith-Jordan

Many students in our school district have names that they prefer to go by, and these same students struggle to be called by these names. Students may have a preferred name for a variety of reasons, such as trauma, changes in gender, comfortability, and many other perfectly valid reasons. Teachers and staff should respect students’ preferred names in schools regardless of their gender and physical appearance. 

VBCPS staff should be using students’ preferred names because it shows respect for students and respect for their backgrounds. The use of a student’s preferred name can help students feel more comfortable at school and make their learning environment feel safer. 

Everyone knows how annoying it is to be called something other than what they see as their name. Students with preferred names want their identification to be respected just as much as students who go by their birth name. Using a student’s preferred name helps support and respect the student’s gender identification because most names match gender expression.

Cleveland State University’s (CSU) guidelines support the use of preferred names. According to these guidelines, CSU believes that using preferred names is important because “using the wrong name can cause a person to recall a time and experience when they couldn’t express who they really are.” Colleges like CSU pride themselves in creating environments where all students are welcome, and our high school guidelines should follow the example. 

Students with preferred names that are not respected will feel disconnected and disrespected in their school system. Putting students in an environment in which they are not comfortable can hurt their learning experience. Just like colleges, school districts should pride themselves in creating environments in which their students feel comfortable learning.