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The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

Editorial: Broken identities

West Side Story’s Editorial Board believes the ICCSD needs to show support for students concerning recent legislation regarding gender identity.
The+ICCSD+needs+to+speak+out+and+support+students+regarding+new+laws.
Athena Wu
The ICCSD needs to speak out and support students regarding new laws.

For some, school is a second home, a place where they can fully be themselves, away from their difficult home lives. But now, some students can no longer call school a safe space.
On May 26, the Iowa Legislature instituted a new law affecting students who want to change their names and use alternative pronouns in schools without notifying parents. Known as Senate File 496, the law states that if a student requests an alternate name or pronoun than legally documented, school staff members must either report them to administration or potentially lose their teaching license. From there, the administration will make a phone call home to let parents know of the changes.
The Iowa City Community School District’s response to this legislation wasn’t enough; there was no formal warning given at the beginning of the school year and a general lack of clear information for students. To ensure that all students receive the same message, it is vital the ICCSD sends out a message to all buildings in regard to the new laws.
West uses Infinite Campus to track students’ information; all name, pronoun and nickname changes have to go through the program. Students don’t have control over these settings, and therefore, have to receive approval from their parents to change them. This system worked fine before the law since teachers could address students as they wanted. Now, for transgender students without accepting families, this forced outing can be a serious issue. This is why, for many students, school is no longer an accepting place where the staff can support them, even if they want to.
The law creates a culture of disregarding trans students by having to ask “Is this official?” when they want to be called by a new name. Although students who are open about their gender identity at school may be open at home, letting students choose when and where they come out is important for their private lives and establishing a safe space at school. When teachers are forced to report student gender changes, it can feel personal to students who may not have accepting adults at home. The law pressures students into remaining in the closet, adding to the frustration when administration doesn’t actively back the students that they’ve claimed to support.


Despite changes to school and district policies, mandating these reports to parents or guardians, the ICCSD has not released a public response supporting trans students in their schools. When West Side Story emailed district administrators, we only received legal assurance that they would follow the law. While it’s good to have clarity with students, officials also need to make statements about the policy, specifically supporting students affected by it and clarifying what they have to report. The current lack of meaningful statements leaves students out to dry and isn’t helpful for those who may already be struggling with non-accepting families. Taking away supporting community members and a safe space shouldn’t be brushed over. Although some teachers have made individual statements about this law, the larger institutions have yet to.
The ICCSD needs to tell students about the law regarding new policies and their support for students. While West has some communities or classes that have discussed the law, not every student knows about it. A simple message at the beginning of the year would have helped a lot. Even now, an official message stating that the district wants to stand with students would be a good sign.
With the lack of response from authorities, students can feel abandoned by schools that want to support them, while being surrounded by potential issues at home. With these issues being prevalent, it’s more pressing than ever for administration to reinforce their support for students and to spread the word about what new policies are being enacted.

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About the Contributor
Athena Wu
Athena Wu, Print Entertainment Editor
(she/her) This is Athena's third year on the WSS print staff, and as a senior, their last year. She is entertainment editor, and enjoys all things satire, flair and unnecessary knick-knacks. This includes Radish's, horses, seraphs, inverted colors and art not necessarily in that order.
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