Journalism leadership education consultant

Honestly, everything. Whether we were gifted our names by our parents, earned it from our friends, chose it for ourselves or gained it through love, our names signify our truest selves.

Over the summer, a discussion of yearbook name-change policy came up. One adviser followed up with me to get clarification of my statement on this topic. I wish I could remember what I said at the meeting — not because I am confident it was brilliant, but because I fear it was insensitive.

With each passing week of this rollercoaster of a schoolyear, I learn something new about myself. About my privileges and my biases. About my community and my students. About humanity and our need to love each other. More and more and more.

Whether what I said this summer was in line with what I now know to be true about yearbook name policy is probably irrelevant. What’s important is that we work from this point forward with new insights and greater appreciation for our students, parents, colleagues and friends.

I sincerely hope you find this helpful as you and your staff hammer out a policy on this vital and sometimes volatile topic. Please know this is NOT the official policy of Vox Populi, but my draft to be edited and approved by the yearbook staff’s editorial board. In that Vox is an open forum, I cannot dictate policy. I can only advise.

And prevent them from (metaphorically) burning down the building.

Name Change Policy

Empathy should be order of the day when creating policy regarding something as personal as one’s name. Yearbook staffers should be aware that any number of life-changing events can lead to a student name change – parent marriage, parent divorce, adoption, gender identity, citizenship, personal preference and many others. Our name change policy is two-fold.

  1. Any name change requested before the first yearbook deadline and after the last yearbook deadline of a given school year should be referred to the school registrar and/or administration. The registrar’s official list should be generated for the use of the yearbook staff at the last possible moment to ensure greatest accuracy.

  2. Any name change requested once the first pages have been published will be difficult to accommodate. With empathy, yearbook staffers should make an effort to

    1. Clarify the yearbook name change policy with the student

    2. Accommodate the name change if at all possible

    3. Communicate with administration

Some cautions:

  • Do not use nicknames in the yearbook except in quotes. For example, “My favorite student in the class is Biff,” math teacher Mike Chandler said about James “Biff” Jong ’21.

  • Do not use any name that differs from the official registrar list provided by the school based on hearsay. Be a journalist. Research the proper name and report it according to policy.

  • Never “dead-name” a transgender student.

In all things, be transparent (let every party know what you’re doing and why), accurate and objective.