Aug 8, 2023 - Education

Des Moines-area schools navigate new student pronoun, name rules

Illustration of a school bus with an activated stop sign showing a pride flag.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Iowa school districts are navigating how to implement a new law requiring families to provide written permission for their students' preferred names and pronouns before classes start this fall.

Why it matters: School employees who don't follow the law may be penalized, including losing their teaching licenses, starting Jan. 1, 2024.

State of play: The Republican-led law implements new restrictions on books, instruction and how to refer to students.

  • It requires parents to give schools written permission to use any pronouns or names not assigned at birth for their kids.
  • It also requires that school staff notify parents if a student requests to be called a name or pronoun not assigned at birth.

What they're saying: Nick Covington, a former Ankeny teacher and education advocate, tells Axios he received a form from the Ballard school district this month regarding registering his own kids' names and pronouns.

  • It gives examples, such as "Sam instead of Samuel" or "Addy instead of Addison."
  • "I see this totally as a solution in search of a problem with the downstream consequences that it harms trans kids," Convington tells Axios.

The other side: House education chair Skyler Wheeler has said that parents are "cut out of important conversations" if schools don't share information about their child's gender identity, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Axios reached out to Des Moines metro school districts. Here's how they're handling the new law:

Ankeny: New "student disclosure of identity" rules were added to its handbook that prohibit staff from giving "false or misleading" information regarding a student's gender identity to a parent.

  • Parents are also asked to fill out their kids' names during registration.

Des Moines: School officials are meeting this week on how to handle the law.

  • Superintendent Ian Roberts has said he expects staff to follow the new rules.

Johnston: Parents are asked to give preferred names during student registration.

  • The school board will vote on adding new rules to be in compliance with state law during its Aug. 17 meeting.

Urbandale and Waukee: Rule-making is in process.

West Des Moines: The district is waiting for more guidance from the state.

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