Letting students use preferred names on Zoom creates positive school environment

The value of being called the proper name cannot be underestimated. The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law finds that more inclusive policies regarding preferred names improves students' perception of their university and sense of belonging.

Ellie Cowen

The value of being called the proper name cannot be underestimated. The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law finds that more inclusive policies regarding preferred names improves students’ perception of their university and sense of belonging.

One can only wonder how many Ellies there are in the world. Perhaps, millions. Officially, I am not one of them. I was born Katherine Elise Cowen, and for a reason unknown to me, my parents decided to call me Ellie. And no, Ellie is not my middle name, which is what I tell teachers when I say I go by Ellie and they give me that, ‘Oh boy, I am not going to remember that” look. And they haven’t.

I’m not sure a single one of my new teachers knows my preferred name. Not that I can blame them, considering ‘Katherine Cowen’ pops up whenever I start talking on Zoom, which brings me to my main point: Students should be allowed to change their names on Zoom to whatever they prefer.

I am not the only student who suffers through this mislabeling. Sophomore Gabriella Lizondo, who goes by Ella, goes through the same thing.“I don’t know which name I should look out for and when we do Whiteboard or Nearpod stuff and I put my preferred name on work they don’t know who it is,” Lizondo said.

In a press release about virtual education, MCPS notes their concern for the online safety of students and how anonymity of students could lead to “inappropriate behavior.” So in the name of security, the county does not allow students to change their names, but instead allows Zoom to collect data on students’ “date and time… connectivity and performance information related to logins, clicks, messages, contacts, content viewed and shared, calls, use of video and screen sharing, meetings, cloud recording.”

But, I digress. I understand that security must be of utmost importance during this time of virtual learning, which is why students must be logged on to their MCPS Google account to access zooms or why I sit in meeting waiting rooms before all of my meetings start: to keep unwanted, anonymous zoomers out.

Acting Administrator Christie Rice does not share the county’s anonymity concerns. “This is a unique situation, and the intention behind changing the name on Zoom is to make sure teachers and students can create a positive classroom environment. High school students should be mature enough to handle having an appropriate name listed on zoom,” Rice said.

I think students should be allowed to [include their pronouns], especially when so much student to student interaction takes place in Zoom chat.”

— Christie Rice

Students should also be allowed to change their names in order to include their pronouns. Now a common occurrence on Instagram, even cisgender students are including pronouns in their bios. Rice agrees that pronouns are something that should be added. “I think students should be allowed to [include their pronouns], especially when so much student to student interaction takes place in Zoom chat,” Rice said.

Creating a positive school environment is a top priority during this time of social isolation, so the importance of calling students by their correct names and their correct pronouns should not be underestimated. Lizondo also feels that pronouns are a necessity . “I would include my pronouns in my name and I think everyone should so that people who need to include their pronouns to make sure that they don’t get misgendered don’t feel outed,” Linzondo said.