Ottumwa High School, aerial file photo

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school district has adopted a new policy regarding student gender expression.

This will allow students to be addressed by the name and gender pronoun (i.e. he/him, she/her) with which they identify, and ensures all students have access to gender-neutral bathrooms.

Under this new policy, students may request to change how their names appear in the yearbook and how their names are read at graduation.

While much of this is already ensured by Iowa law, the district has never adopted an official written policy on the issue. These provisions apply to all schools in the Ottumwa district.

“We’ve always had bullying procedures, but there was never anything regarding names in the yearbook,” said Kolby Streeby, OHS faculty sponsor of the Fellowship of the Rainbow.

The Fellowship is an LGBT student group at OHS, which was responsible for writing the policy and presenting it to the school board and district administrators. The club also created a video explaining what will change.

That video will be presented to teachers across the district and may appear on the district website. It’s a basic overview of the policy changes and promises that “Ottumwa’s rich tradition of diversity will continue through the 21st century.”

“Last year, there was a parent who reached out to me who had a student who attended Davis County schools,” Streeby said. “They are transgender, and there wasn’t a lot of support in Davis County, so that student started coming here and meeting once a week with our group. They actually open-enrolled this year, and are now attending OHS. I anticipate that’s going to happen more in the future.”

While the school already had a single-stall gender-neutral bathroom, OHS senior Lily Streeby said it was in an inconvenient location.

“They’re really out of your way,” she said. “If you want to use those, you’re probably going to be late for class.”

To accommodate these policy changes, the school designated a former teachers’ bathroom on the third floor as a new single-stall gender-neutral bathroom reserved for student use. They are available to every student, regardless of the reason.

Although students will be able to request how their name appears in the yearbook, and how their name is read at graduation, a legal name change is required for the student’s preferred name to appear on their diploma.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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