Is SPASH Misgendering Students?


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Reghan Robinson, Hour 2

You are sitting in class; it’s the first day of school you have a pit in your stomach. The teacher is talking about introductions to the class. It’s your turn to stand. You say your name and pronouns. Your teacher looks confused, did other students notice this? The class continues, the bell rings. You are trying to leave when you get called over by your teacher. They ask you if you have a gender support plan for your transition. You don’t. They ask if your parents allow you to be called this name. They do not. You leave and all you can think about is how you may be dead for the rest of your school year.

This fall, Stevens Point school district’s new legal guidance surrounding pronouns has turned into a debate on what teachers should do regarding pronouns. The Stevens Point area school district informed their staff on legal guidance given in response to state wide lawsuits. Stevens Point Area Senior HIgh (SPASH) staff were informed, we need parental consent to use gender-affirming preferred pronouns or names, you can not directly ask a student what their pronouns are, and to reach out with counselors to check if students have parental consent. As well as trying to make sure students have support through these hard times. The schools have no intention to purposely deadname students however this brings up what teachers will be doing based on the legal guidance.

SPASH Teachers 

Nevertheless Teachers around SPASH have planned to be respectful. From a survey that seven teachers filled out, teachers were asked if they use students’ preferred pronouns. They responded with 71.4%  yes. 14.3% just first names and the last 14.3% said yes if the students had a pre in place gender support plan. This ties directly to an anonymous teacher who was interviewed  and was questioned about how they use students’ preferred names and pronouns. They respond by  now defaulting to they/them pronouns in order to not misgender anyone without knowing. The teacher would want to be called their name so in consideration to student they will do the same. These teachers’ responses to similar questions shows how teachers appear to be united in calling students what they wish to be called. Some will have conditions trying to follow the legal guidelines yet others will just use preferred pronouns and names due to having respect for the students. 

Mental Health 

Equally important, is the students mental health. Mental health of non cis students is being taken into account. The often first thing we think about is bullying so are teenagers dealing with increased bullying stemming from pronouns and names? Ms. Melville, an assistant SPASH principle, and Miss Stahl who is an equity, diversity and inclusion program specialist, were interviewed and they stated there has been no increase in bullying or harassment of students based on what the new legal guidance covers. They also discussed making sure there are safe spaces around SPASH for students to vent their frustrations. All of the offices are safe spaces for students to go and talk about problems that may occur from these situations. When students have a place they feel comfortable to share how they are feeling it makes them feel heard and helps their mental health. 

In the article, A Miniority stress perspective on transgender individuals’ experiences with misgendering Kevin McLemore argues: 

On average, participants reported being misgendered sometimes (M = 3.05, SD = 1.18) and feeling somewhat stigmatized by these experiences (M = 3.64, SD = 1.30). Perceived frequency of misgendering and feeling stigmatized by these experiences were positively associated with identity importance, but only perceived frequency was negatively associated with social support. Both perceived frequency and feeling stigmatized were positively associated with psychological distress.

This shows when someone is misgendered there is an increase in people thinking about how important one’s identity is. When people are misgendered they feel little support socially, often feeling alone or becoming more isolated. When teens are misgendered it causes significant psychological distress. This is being accounted for but it does not stop the fact that teens are suffering from such mental distress. 


Finally, if teachers are put in tough situations regarding pronouns and names they plan to seek advice from administrators. One teacher was interviewed about what they would do in a tough situation and they stated “I would seek advice from administration.” When interviewing Miss Stahl, she was asked how she would handle a teacher asking her for advice on a situation such as a student having preferred names and pronouns that the parents do not agree with, stahl responded with “I would referring them back to guidance recommendation that if we don’t have parental consent, that we have to use the names in skyward,” teachers who are seeking advice do have the choice on what to do in each situation but administrators will recommend rereading the guidelines. 

After all, teachers will be respectful of students’ names and pronouns. The mental health of students is being cared for and is being thought out thoroughly. As well as if teachers are seeking advice for what to do in tough situations and reach out to administration  they will be shown the guidelines from the SPASH’s school district lawyer.