Massachusetts Middle Schoolers Can Change Name, Pronouns, Gender At School Without Parents Knowing

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Should parents know if their child goes by a different name, uses different pronouns, and identifies as a different gender at school?

In Massachusetts public schools, that’s not always the case.

State policy says that many students can change these things at school without any parental involvement or notification — including some middle school students.

If a student is at least 14 years old, then no parental involvement in the process is necessary. In Massachusetts, 14-year-olds are typically in either eighth grade (middle school) or are freshmen in high school. If a child gets held back, that child could also be 14 years old in seventh grade. 

Here is what the policy from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says on the matter:


The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student or, in the case of young students not yet able to advocate for themselves, with the parent, A student who is 14 years of age or older, or who has entered the ninth grade, may consent to disclosure of information from their student record. If a student is under 14 and is not yet in the ninth grade, the student’s parent (alone) has the authority to decide on disclosures and other student record matters. It should be taken into consideration that record changes may result in a student’s gender marker being printed on school records and other documents e.g. report cards and general correspondence.


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gives students three options for gender identity:  male, female, and non-binary. An “X” is used to show that someone identifies as non-binary.

It also notes that children don’t have to legally change their name to be called by a different name at school.

“Massachusetts’ law recognizes common law name changes,” the department’s policy says. “An individual may adopt a name that is different from the name that appears on their birth certificate provided the change of name is done for an honest reason, with no fraudulent intent. Nothing more formal than usage is required.”

The ability for children to change their gender identity, name, and pronouns in schools has been in place for a decade now. 

That’s because Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill called “An Act Relative to Gender Identity” (H.3810) into law in December 2011 — which went into effect in July 2012. As the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education points out, the bill prohibited “discrimination on the basis of gender identity against students who enroll in or attend the public schools.”

As a result, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education updated many of its policies. The bill also affirmed access to locker rooms and athletics at public schools for transgender students based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex. 

Massachusetts Family Institute communications director Mary Ellen Siegler told NewBostonPost that this policy from the Commonwealth is an attack on parental rights. Siegler wrote in an email message:


It is unfathomable that the taxpayer-funded DESE would push a policy allowing school officials to help a child keep important mental health information from their parents. Do any of the bureaucrats at DESE have children? Why would DESE come between the sacred parent-child relationship in this way? A fourteen-year-old child does not have the emotional or cognitive maturity to adopt an identification that could lead them down the path of harmful and irreversible transgender medical interventions. With access to social media where trans identities are promoted and normalized and through evangelistic efforts of LGBT activists in schools, adolescents are becoming increasingly susceptible to gender confusion. If a minor child is experiencing gender confusion the school has a moral obligation to inform parents of their child’s distress. This policy puts children at risk and tramples parental rights. DESE should rescind this unconscionable policy immediately.


A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education could not be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday this week. 


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