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December 12, 2021

Philly school district will allow students to identify as nonbinary on school forms

The decision was made by Superintendent Hite, aiming to enhance inclusivity for transgender and gender non-conforming students

Education LGBTQ
School District of Philadelphia nonbinary students Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Students in the Philadelphia School District can now select "nonbinary" as a gender identifier on the District's student information portal, or in online instructional material via Google Classroom, following an announcement by Superintendent Hite on providing an inclusive learning environment.

In a move to enhance the School District of Philadelphia's goal to be a safe and inclusive learning environment, Superintendent William Hite announced on Thursday that a new District-wide policy would allow students to select a "nonbinary" gender identity option on Infinite Campus and Google Classroom, two virtual educational platforms. 

The recent change will accompany the "female" and "male" gender choice options already available. 

Though the move allows for the School District to enhance their efforts in providing an inclusive educational environment for all students, the changes will not be reflected on state-run documents, as they rely on information provided from the child's birth certificate and other related materials. 

The change is preceded by a 2016 District policy on protections for transgender and/or gender non-comforming students, with the purpose of providing a safe and equitable learning environment for students regardless of gender identity and expression. 

The policy is listed under Title IX regulations, which prohibits discrimination of students based on sex, with additional protections based on gender identity. 

Policy 252 has been lauded as a groundbreaking effort by the School District to ensure safety and inclusivity for transgender and gender non-conforming students, including the promise of at least one gender neutral bathroom in every school, including specific protections for students as part of their anti-bullying and harassment policies, and allowing students to dress according to their gender identity. 

It also makes "persistent refusal" to use a student's gender identity or pronouns by any teacher or school official a violation of the District's policy. It places an emphasis on removing gender segregation from school activities and allowing students to participate in gender-segregated activities based on their gender identity. 

"The School District of Philadelphia is committed to providing safe and inclusive learning environments that support the emotional and mental health of all our students," Hite said in a letter addressed to parents and families. 

Students have two options: they can change their name and gender identification in online communication through Google Classroom, or on Infinite Campus, the student information system used by the District, which includes how their names are printed on report cards and assessments. 

Students are able to access the form here, and can request a change without parental permission. 

The District is able to note to the state Department of Education that a student identifies as nonbinary, but it does not reflect or change any information provided by the birth certificate. Hite notes that the District hopes to see similar changes to what they're implementing be passed on a state and federal level. 

This change harkens back to a previous District policy change from 2020, which allows students to change how their names appear on Google Classroom without parental sign-off. A similar decision was made for District staff in 2020, which allows a name or gender identity change without legal documentation.