Tell School District to Read Transgender Student’s Chosen Name at Graduation

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Target:  Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Deisley and President Chris E. Seitz of the Red Lion Area School Board

Goal: Allow a transgender student to be called by his chosen name during graduation ceremonies.

Issak Wolfe, a senior at Red Lion Area High School in Pennsylvania, was looking forward to hearing his name called as he walks across the stage to receive his diploma on graduation day. Because he is transgender, however, he may not have the chance to be recognized by his chosen male name that aligns with his gender identity. The Red Lion Area School District (RLASD) has denied requests made by Wolfe and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to use the name “Issak Wolfe” during the ceremony. In a letter by the school district’s solicitor, the school board states that only students’ legal names will be read on graduation day, despite the fact that Wolfe has been known as Issak to his parents, friends, and teachers for almost two years now. Wolfe does plan to legally change his name, but because the process involves a court hearing, the name change will not occur in time for graduation.

This situation is not the only instance in which Wolfe has been subjected to discrimination and disregard by the RLASD. During Wolfe’s attempt to run for prom king earlier this year, the high school principal refused to place Wolfe’s name in the “prom king” column, instead placing his female birth name in the “prom queen” column despite repeated requests by Wolfe and the ACLU. The RLASD has clearly failed to treat its students with the respect and support they deserve, even in the simplest of ways.

Hearing one’s name called while receiving a diploma should bring about feelings of joy, pride, and perhaps relief. No student deserves to feel alienated or shameful on a day that should be celebrated. Show your support for Issak as he prepares for his upcoming meeting with the school board. Sign the petition below to demand that the Red Lion Area School Board respect Issak Wolfe by using his chosen name during the graduation ceremony.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Dr. Scott A. Deisley and Mr. Chris E. Seitz,

High school graduation should be a time for graduates and their families to reflect on past memories and to celebrate a new chapter in young people’s lives. It should not be an event that brings up feelings of regret, sadness, or shame.  Students and parents look forward to the day when the graduates cross the stage to receive their diplomas as their names are called. Like high school seniors everywhere, Issak Wolfe was looking forward to hearing his name called on the big day. Because of the RLASD’s discrimination against Issak’s transgender status, however, his dream may not become a reality.

During the summer before his junior year, Issak courageously began his transition from female to male. He chose the name “Issak Wolfe” over his female birth name in order to more closely match his gender identity. Since then, he has been known as Issak to his family, friends, and teachers. Issak does plan to legally change his name, but because the process involves a court hearing, the name change will not occur in time for graduation.

Names are more than just words we use to distinguish one person from another. A name is the foundation of a person’s self identity. It is why parents deliberate on what to call their child even before he or she is born. It is why a person feels the need to “clear his name” and why some nicknames can make a person feel special and some can inflict emotional pain. Calling an individual by his or her preferred name is the simplest and easiest way to show respect towards that person.

The RLASD has provided absolutely no reason behind the refusal to honor Issak’s request to respect his gender identity by using his chosen name. The school board has demonstrated disregard for the feelings of its students and ignorance in the matters of gender identity. We demand that Issak’s chosen name be used during the graduation ceremonies.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: aprilbell via Stock.xchng

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