URBANDALE, Iowa — What’s in a name? For one district, a student going by a nickname other than what is on their birth certificate will need to be signed off by a parent.
Parents at the Urbandale Community School District were made aware at the beginning of the school year that students wishing to be called by a nickname will need parental consent. The Urbandale Community School District talked about this new policy on Monday night at a school board meeting.
“The whole thing is silly,” said Dan Gutmann, an Urbandale School District Board member. “My own son has a name, he goes by a name that’s a shortened version of his birth name. He suggested we just go ahead and change it to ‘Batman’. And we could, we could, you know and I say that only half in jest, but a ridiculous law requires a ridiculous response I suppose.”
Gutman said that the notification he received from the district was in an email. Saying, in part, that the district needed to be in compliance with new legislation: that if a student requests a name other than what’s on their birth certificate, the district would have to notify parents and have them complete the form for staff members to use that name.
The change in school policy stems from Senate File 496. That is the massive education bill that was passed last session. The bill says that if a student wants to go by different pronouns, other than the ones used to describe their sex at birth, a parent would need to sign off. Urbandale is taking a wide approach so the school district isn’t at risk of receiving penalties from the state if their school rules don’t abide by the change, and so school policy does not discriminate against a particular group of students.
The Urbandale Community School District appeared to use the same rationale when the list of 400 books that were to be removed from school shelves went public. That list is now down to 65 books: ones that contain “sex acts” as defined in Iowa code.
“And the reason that school districts, out of an abundance of caution of not looking like they’re discriminating against one particular class, have decided to apply this rule to everyone,” said Gutmann.
Gutmann said that the board was reaching out for legal guidance on two points of concern with the new policy. One: if a student is 18 or older, would the district require parental consent for nicknames? The answer they got back was yes. The second is whether an emancipated student, who doesn’t have a legal guardian, is required to have someone sign off. Legal counsel did not have an answer on Monday, according to Gutmann.