N.S. students will be able to choose preferred name and gender in school system

Students in Nova Scotia will soon be able to choose how they want to be identified in the provincial school system when it comes to their preferred name and gender.

For two Grade 11 students at Citadel High School, learning they will soon be able to use their preferred names and genders in school records is happy news.

“It’s good to know that they’re finally coming around and changing that because it’s more comforting and making school safer for people,” said student Ray Lucas.

Hanley Smith was also pleased with the news.

“It also affects the idea of like, this is another human being, we don’t need to look at them differently,” Smith said.

By the end of this month, all Nova Scotia students will be able to choose the name they would like to use at school — for everything from report cards, to attendance lists, to honour rolls.

“If a student enters a preferred name in their registration process, or if they make a request for a preferred name, that preferred name will be automatically populated into all areas of their school life,” said Joanne Syms of the Nova Scotia Education Department.

A high school health coordinator says the move will make a huge difference for trans students in particular, who right now run the risk of being inadvertently “outed” at school.

“So, if your classmates see that name, maybe you’re not even out as a trans student, you’re just a boy, and if you read a very female name, they’re gonna be like ‘oh, oh!’ and know something about you,” said Erin Poirier, the youth health centre coordinator at Citadel High.

There are exceptions to this new policy: a student’s legal name has to appear on their graduation certificate and high school transcript, unless the student changes their information through vital statistics.

“As of January, there will be no charge (for) that, students will be able to go with their parents and actually change their gender marker,” Syms said.

That news has been a long time coming for Cyndi Sweeney.

She’s part of a group supporting families around gender identity. She lobbied for the change after her child was mis-gendered on his report card.

“It’s about inclusion, and it’s about respecting every child’s right to privacy and to be accepted,” said Sweeney.

For her, and for some students, what’s in a name makes all the difference in creating that inclusive place where everyone can learn.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.





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