by Audrey Farris ‘25
Recently, the education platform Synergy that is used by MCPS has provided students with the option to change their name and/or gender as it appears on their profile, which is visible to any staff member or parent. These changes can be made without parental permission or consent. This update may provide transgender students more comfort in their identities and prevent the stress that may occur when a student is referred to by the name they were given at birth or one they had used pre-transition, rather than their current chosen name.
Science teacher Mary Baker, who is the Stand Proud club sponsor, explained the importance of this change. “Names are important and it hurts to be called the wrong name or to be misgendered … [This change] means they don’t have to put up with the teacher forgetting and dead-naming or misgendering them in front of other students, therefore outing them.”
Support of transgender students in school is more important than ever, as America is facing dramatically high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Project, an organization that provides suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ+ youth, found that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth across the United States have considered suicide last year, and 14 percent attempted suicide. The rate was even higher in transgender youth. Additionally, the increase of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in numerous states causes stress in the community as the legality of LGBTQ+ people’s identities is being threatened.
The support from MCPS for this change in Synergy is an important recognition for LGBTQ+ students and staff in the school system. In another signal of support, MCPS hosted its annual Pride Town Hall at Walter Johnson on May 21, and more than 150 students, staff, family members, and others attended and participated in workshops and a resource fair. Baker believes that MCPS still needs to invest in more training for staff. “Right now, the ‘training’ is a short slide presentation that staff can just click through. One of the most common excuses given for dead-naming/misgendering is a lack of experience.” Baker also touched on bathrooms, and how “[MCPS] could make the single-use staff bathrooms unisex– that just requires changing the signs.”
Another important factor of LGBTQ+ support in MCPS includes staff members. Baker said that two trans staff members at other schools were harassed and threatened by students and eventually had to leave this year. “If it’s not safe for LGBTQ+ staff members to be out, what message is that sending the students,” Baker asked.
MCPS may still have a way to go before LGBTQ+ students will feel fully supported by their schools, but the option for students to be able to change their name and gender as it appears on their Synergy profile is an important step