Transgender students say school got their names wrong in senior yearbook

Jun 2, 2022, 5:30 AM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:30 pm

RIVERTON, Utah — School officials apologized for an “honest mistake” Wednesday after transgender students said their high school got their names wrong in their senior yearbook.

At the close of a sometimes-difficult high school experience, this was supposed to be the year Elliott James and other transgender seniors would be remembered by their preferred names rather than what they call “dead names.”

“Because it is the name of someone who does not exist anymore or maybe never has, we call them dead names,” said James, a graduating senior at Riverton High School. “Not a name we feel we have any ownership over. It’s not something we will ever feel is right for us.”

But when James went to pick up the yearbook Wednesday and flipped to his school picture, he saw his “dead name” staring back up.

“Which is obviously really frustrating. It has not been a fun day,” James said.

“I didn’t think the yearbook would be a problem because I felt like we had done what we needed to make sure that everything was listed correctly,” said Carrine, James’ mother.

James has been going by Elliott since February 2021. Carinne says that was the name listed on attendance rolls and Skyward’s online student portal. Before that, James went by a different preferred name.

“It’s been a difficult year, and so we’ve just been proud of Elliott to get to this point and graduating and overcoming all these struggles,” Carrine said.

The Riverton Highschool yearbook with the “lost names” crossed out.

Sandy Riesgraf with the Jordan School District told KSL TV the school has for some time given families the ability to change names with the student and parent’s permission.

After speaking to the Riverton High School principal, Riesgraf said that printing James’ legal name was “unintentional” and “an honest mistake.” She apologized on the school’s behalf.

The principal also reached out to Carinne on the phone to apologize. She also “expressed her love and support for the queer and trans students at the school, which I appreciate,” Carinne said.

Another transgender senior at Riverton named Miles Adair told KSL TV the school got their preferred name right in last year’s yearbook. Then this year, they filled out a required notarized document to make the change official with the school. But they say this year the school got their name wrong.

James pointed out a few others in the yearbook whose preferred names were also left out in this year’s yearbook. It’s unclear whether they changed their names with the school prior to the printing of the yearbooks.

“It was a pretty big sting. Felt like a punch in the face for sure,” James said, adding that the school did get other transgender students’ names right, including everyone who was quoted on other pages in the yearbook.

Carinne knows what’s done is done. She doesn’t expect the school to reprint yearbooks. But she said, “we just want to make sure this doesn’t happen for future students.”

James has already blotted out the “dead names” of trans students in the yearbook and written in their preferred names. But, he said, “I can’t fix anybody else’s copy.”

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Transgender students say school got their names wrong in senior yearbook