MOORE, Okla. (KFOR)- Last year, Moore Public School students could ask to be called another name different from the one on their teacher’s roster, but starting this school year, those students will have to go through an internal process for approval.
A MPS representative told KFOR,
“The MPS internal procedure for students wishing to use a preferred name is to protect our students and to protect students who are transitioning. The procedure was put in place to protect the integrity of a student’s legal records, and we also must be sensitive and helpful to students who are trying to navigate gender identification issues.”
The goal is to also protect the accuracy of student records to ensure when students are taking the ACT or SAT that there wouldn’t be any issue regarding a student’s entry to high education, entering the military, or manage any number of functions associated with records that require a legal name.
An MPS representative said there isn’t a purpose for the timing of this new procedure, “other than it allows us to manage preferred name requests in a coordinated and unified effort across our district.”
This internal process applies to all students, not just for those of the LGBTQ+ community.
However, a Southmoore High School teacher said their back-to-school agenda meeting this Wednesday is supposed to further explain what this means under the bullet point, “transgender student issues.”
A MPS representative said that agenda item is to likely cover what SB615 means for public schools and what teachers and staff need to know so they can comply with the new state law. “The preferred name request internal process just brings a formal process to how we handle them.”
SB615 is a new law that was authored by OK House of Representatives for District 28, Danny Williams (R) requiring school restrooms or changing areas to be used by individuals based on their sex; requiring certain accommodation.
“This is a new state law that every public school district in Oklahoma has to comply with, and is not something limited to MPS,” MPS wrote in a statement.
Williams said SB615 only outlines bathrooms though, and not a name approval process.
“However, if a child wants to be called June instead of John, the law does address that John must go to the bathroom of his sex as listed on his original birth certificate. Therefore, he may start going by June at the school, but he still must use the boys’ bathroom,” added Williams.
Williams also said the intent of the bill is to protect the safety and privacy of students and ensure that biological males go to the boys’ bathroom and biological females go to the girls’ bathroom.
Oklahoma’s Secretary of Public Education, Ryan Walters said he supports this new law.
On Tuesday he told KFOR he doesn’t support a district-wide process like MPS’s.
“We don’t need to be discussing with students about their gender, about their sexuality. Teachers don’t want to be put in that position. Number one. Most importantly, parents don’t want their kids having those conversations at school. Number two. And so what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to move back to to a way of educating kids, which is a focus on academics,” said Walters.
Walters went on to say, “If individual students want to have these type of discussions, they should be connected with a mental health professional that has those discussions with them, not in a classroom setting, not with broad policies across the school, but one on one.”
The day after KFOR first aired and published this story, Walters told KFOR he spoke to Superintendent on Wednesday and changed his mind and now supports the plan.
Executive Director for Freedom Oklahoma, Nicole McAfee said in no part does this procedure helps students, that it does way more harm than good.
“It is really probably a violation of federal civil rights law by notifying administration of a student’s desire to go by their chosen name and educators potentially outing them to someone who may be an unsafe contact,” said McAfee.
McAfee said in her research, she has found that young transgender to gender nonconforming students who use their chosen name has “better mental health outcomes.”
McAfee told KFOR this isn’t the first time this year she has heard “there’s this new kind of arbitrary policy that really seems to target trans students and I’m worried, as an educator, about what that means in terms of implementation and how I best serve my students. I think it’s critical here that using chosen names isn’t just a matter of creating the best learning environment for a student, which it does.”
McAfee is hoping MPS’s internal procedure doesn’t extend to other school districts.
“It’s a matter of life for students who disproportionately have trouble seeing a future for themselves at all. I think that I’m really concerned about schools who are taking it upon themselves to sort of further harm and target trans youth, especially. I hope that we will see teachers continue to raise awareness about these policies and figure out ways to continue to affirm and support their vulnerable students.”
The Southmoore High School teacher News 4 spoke with said she doesn’t support this new procedure. Her question is, “What will happen to me if I refuse to comply?”
MPS said,”If an MPS staff member violates the internal procedure, that matter will be dealt with through the Personnel Department consistent with our negotiated agreement.”
Southmoore High School’s back-to-school meeting will be Wednesday from 8:30-11:30 in the morning where faculty will learn more about this topic at hand.
MPS said teachers have not heard about nor reviewed the process yet, but that all 35 school sites will have this procedure to ensure effectiveness and “support we provide students.”