LGBTQ and Inclusivity

This week NPR aired a story about a student newspaper in Grand Island, Nebraska that was shut down because students published articles under the names they chose for themselves rather than their birth names. According to the article, using a byline of their own choosing was somehow “controversial.” Per the report, neither the superintendent, board president, nor the school’s principal would provide comment on the story.

I feel sorry for the folks in Grand Island who are led by such a group of cowards.

The only “controversy” of allowing a person to publish under their chosen byline is the one wholly created by the weak-kneed leaders of the district. Public education and public education leaders are to provide a welcoming and safe place for learning for all students and staff.

Rather than welcome all students into their community, the leaders in Grand Island instead choose to send the message that, “You are welcome to be in our schools so long as you conform to the narrow ideas, values, and orientation supported by the superintendent, board president, and school principal. We, and we alone shall determine whether or not you and your preferred existence is acceptable. If you challenge our worldview we shall insist you stuff yourself back into the closet and toe the line of the lifestyle we have decreed as being acceptable. If you do not, we shall do our best to erase you and your point of view from within the walls of our publicly financed institution.”

How shameful.

It would be interesting to know exactly what the lily-livered leaders fear could happen by simply allowing the students to publish under their preferred bylines. Would the world stop revolving? Would day become night? Would the Detroit Lions have a winning football team? Or maybe the problem is that they would actually have to do their jobs and stand up in order to provide a welcoming place for all of the students they are paid to serve rather than cower behind the flimsy excuse that an author publishing under a pseudonym is controversial.

You may or may not recognize the names: Samuel Clemens, Charles Lutwidge Dotson, Eric Arthur Blair, and Mary Ann Evans. It’s likely you are familiar with the names: Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, and George Eliot respectively in the list above. Publishing under a name other than one’s birth name is common. If the leaders in Grand Island needed an excuse to allow high school students to publish under the name they desired, they quite simply could have referred to the use of alternative names being a long tradition in the history of writing. This would ignore the fact that the writers consider their chosen names to be their names, but that would be far better than spitefully shutting off free speech, eliminating a worthwhile class, and identifying their schools as, at best, craven places in which students who are not of the majority are squashed in order to make life easier on district leaders.

There is not one thing lost by allowing a student to be called by the name they prefer to be called. Many people are known by their middle names, by nicknames, and yes, by pen names.

William Shakespeare aptly pointed out that, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The Grand Island leadership team clearly believes they are the ones who should determine what names others will be known as. Their attack on student identity would have them trampling not just the name by which a rose is called, but the roses themselves. Sadly, the roses in this case are the students they are paid to educate, welcome, and protect.

There certainly is something that smells in the leadership team in Grand Island, but it isn’t roses.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *