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The Student News Site of Carroll High School

The Charger Online

The Student News Site of Carroll High School

The Charger Online

New state law regulates student name changes

House Bill 1608. Graphic by R.K.O. Pablo.

House Bill 1608, (also known as Public Law 248), which requires schools to email parents about name changes, was passed and put into effect in July 2023 for this school year. According to the Indiana General Assembly, it requires schools to tell parents in writing about students asking to change their “name or pronoun, title, or word to identify the student.”

Guidance counselor Rachel Fox confirmed that standard nicknames (i.e. Timothy to Timmy), parts of a student’s full name, and any preferred names on Powerschool or registration do not have to be reported.

“Sometimes, students will go to teachers and say, ‘please call me by this name,’” said Fox. “The teachers then are supposed to contact the administrator and counselor. The administrators are really the ones making a phone call if a phone call is being made. So it’s not the teachers, not really us even—it’s them.”

If a student goes directly to their counselor for a name change, the counselor has to ask if the student’s parents are aware. If so, they can continue with the name change. If not, and the student changes their mind, counselors will not have to email parents about the situation.

“We just kibosh it. We won’t be like, ‘Well, sorry, I still have to reach out to them,’” said Fox. “We don’t have to do that because that can put students in really awkward positions.”

Guidance counselors and administrators are there to offer help regarding name changes or hard parent conversations if needed.

“And if they’re like, nope, then that’s their business,” said Fox. “But if they would like us to help them navigate that conversation, then that’s what we’re here for, too.”

According to Fox, what happens to teachers if they do not follow this law is unclear. Fox figured that, somewhere in the state, certain teachers would ignore the rules of HB 1608, and then eventually get exposed.

A student who chose to remain anonymous came to a similar conclusion.

“I think enough teachers will start ignoring the law, and basically things are going to go back to how they were,” said the student. “One teacher is going to be outed by someone, it’s going to result in some sort of court case, and it’s going to result in favor of the teachers that are ignoring the law, because there’s hardly any way you can support this law by the Constitution.”

HB 1608 has caused controversy with transgender students, since they are the group this bill affects the most—or perhaps the only group it affects, considering that nicknames don’t have to be reported about. In years prior, changing names in certain classes was essentially risk-free.

“For students like me, it becomes really hard for me to muster up the courage to even tell a teacher,” said the student. “I don’t want anybody to relate straight back to my parents.”

HB 1608 places importance on parents knowing what is happening with their child, but students have pointed out that home is sometimes not the safest place for them to be. Students have said school can often be a safe place for transgender students, and HB 1608 has made it harder for that to happen.

“I feel like parents are scared that their kid is going to be trans and they don’t want that, so they’re taking away an outside source that could further ‘influence’ their kid,” said senior Quill Berry. “At the end of the day, this is only about parents wanting to know if their kid is trans or not so they can attempt at controlling the outcome.”

Additionally, Berry finds the bill wholly unnecessary, believing that it benefits no party involved.

“It’s harmful to trans kids and can make their experience at school uncomfortable and unwelcoming,” said Berry. “The only thing this bill does is give more work to the administration. Preventing teachers from using a student’s preferred name and pronouns isn’t going to magically stop that person from being trans.”

The enforcement policies of HB 1608 will potentially come under more scrutiny as the year goes on and issues possibly arise.

“I hope as a school we can all do it very consistently so that there’s not any confusion or angst,” said Fox. “The ultimate goal of the staff and administration is to do what we have to do, but keep the best interest of the student, too.”

Though HB 1608 makes things more complicated for closeted transgender students, resources are still out there, via guidance, the mental health counselor, or online.

“Remind yourself that the people who don’t accept you simply don’t understand the beauty of being able to experience life in such a unique way,” said Berry. “Your existence is valuable and incredible and you should never let anyone else tell you otherwise.”

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About the Contributor
R.K.O. Pablo
R.K.O. Pablo, Co-Editor-in-Chief
R.K.O. Pablo is a senior, and it's their second year on the newspaper. They've been drawing for years, and they create the graphics for the Charger Online's Instagram page. They're in the house like carpet, and they've recently been getting into playing bass. They know all too much about vocaloid, manga, and certain historical figures, so feel free to ask!

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