California Law Protects Community College Students From Deadnaming

It was already illegal to use students' former names on diplomas and academic records. Now, community colleges will have to use affirmed names on all records.
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  • Deadnaming is the term used to describe using someone's name assigned at birth instead of their chosen or affirmed name.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill making it easier for students to change their name and gender identity in community college records.
  • The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office and Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges both supported the bill.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill to increase support for transgender and nonbinary students, staff, and faculty in the California Community College (CCC) system.

Assembly Bill 2315, sponsored by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), requires community college districts to create a system to accommodate an individual's affirmed name or gender identity in records where legal names are not required by law.

The law builds on a 2021 bill that prohibits the state's community colleges and public universities from deadnaming transgender and nonbinary students on their diplomas and academic records.

California community colleges already had a process in place to update the legal name or gender of a student in records if they have government-issued documentation. Now, identifying records such as school-issued email addresses, campus ID cards, class rosters, and transcripts can be changed to their affirmed name and gender without legal documentation.

Deadnaming isn't just traumatic for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary students, faculty, or staff but can also cause a student to abandon the pursuit of their educational goals, David O'Brien, Vice Chancellor of Government Relations for the California Community College system, said in an email to BestColleges.

By creating a process for community colleges to accommodate any individual's affirmed name, we can affirm our students' gender identity while avoiding the act of deadnaming and continuing to further a culture of unconditional belonging, O'Brien said.

The legislation also clarifies that community colleges will not be allowed to charge an increased fee for correcting or updating an individual's name or gender identity. Schools have to implement their system by the 2023-2024 school year.

According to O'Brien, the idea for the legislation originated with the Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges (FACCC).

Members of the FACCC reported that faculty members could correctly identify students by their chosen names and pronouns during virtual learning since students were able to voluntarily self-identify that information.

When the Chancellor's Office reached out to colleges to get their input on the bill, they found that many colleges already had a process in place, and others said it would be easy to implement one.

Given our longstanding priority of ensuring an equitable campus and classroom environment for all students, it was an easy decision for us to support the bill and provide technical assistance to the sponsor and author as it made its way through the legislature, O'Brien said.

California is not the first state to take this step to protect students from deadnaming. According to Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization, almost 800 colleges and universities across the country have similar policies, including 32 California Community Colleges and all campuses of the California State University and University of California systems.