Administration requests final diploma names; seniors suggest revisions to name change process


Naomi Ichiriu

Seniors are able to request a change to the official name on their diploma; however, some seniors see flaws with the process, and propose changes on how to make the experience a better one.

As Los Altos High School gears up for the graduation ceremony next June, the senior class has  been invited to specify which name should be printed on their high school diploma. The form, administered by Registrar Elena Baquero, asks students to first list their full name exactly as it appears on their birth certificate, then email Baquero if their preferred name is different. 

Student diplomas are typically printed with students’ full legal names. But unlike school transcripts and birth certificates, diplomas are not legal documents, meaning that students may request another name they desire.

“A lot of us have names that were assigned to us at birth by our loving parents, and we may not necessarily love the name as much as our parents did,” Baquero said. “We have kids who are LGBTQ+ or trans who do not consider their given name the name that they identify with. We just want to be respectful of that.”

Baquero’s email asks that parents be carbon copied regarding diploma name-change correspondence if the student is a minor at the time of graduation. One primary concern Baquero shared was the possibility of outing a student during the ceremony.

“We do need to respect that the student is a minor,” Baquero said, “Ultimately, it’s the parent who will have the final say. I will say in my experience, I still haven’t had any students come in 

and have their parents say, ‘No, absolutely not’ to a name change request.”

Gender and Sexuality Awareness Club President senior Fenn Marsot disagreed with the requirement for parent notification since there is no obligation to use their birth name. They also mentioned that in their experience, most students requesting a name change have already come out or would come out with their diploma.

“There is a small percentage of students who are not accepted as trans,” Fenn said. “Within that percentage, most are people whose parents know that they go by a different name, but don’t approve — when graduation comes, and students have to notify them, their parents will actively work against them. If parents weren’t notified, they wouldn’t be able to mess up the process and make the student feel uncomfortable.”

In addition to students who do not identify with their given or legal name, the option to request a different name on the diploma applies to students with a legal name in a different language or those who prefer nicknames. 

“There have been a handful of requests,” Baquero said. “The majority are either students who go by a preferred name, whether it matches their given gender or not, or kids who prefer a nickname or their middle name.”

The name-change process predates the Mountain View–Los Altos District’s gender support plan, though Baquero acknowledges that there have likely been more instances following the plan’s implementation. 

Fenn, however, feels that the gender support plan is not reflected in the process: After submitting the form, they received an automated message stating there was a discrepancy between their answers and school records. This concerned Fenn, who had already followed the gender support plan to change their legal name to their preferred name in the school’s system.

“There’s clearly some sort of disconnect,” Fenn said. “I thought that because I’d already changed my name in the system, I really wouldn’t have to worry about changing my name on the diploma at all. I remember Ms. Woolfolk saying that this was the name that was going to be in the yearbook, in the graduation pamphlet and on my diploma.”

Instead of employing a uniform procedure for all graduating seniors, Fenn recommends taking a case-by-case approach to ensure that all students receive the appropriate accommodations. 

“It would be better to assume that if someone is serious about changing their name on the diploma, they should be able to get a specific reply or a meeting,” Fenn said. “I feel like that might be a better system: one that doesn’t just send an automated response telling them that the form doesn’t match with their information.”

Students interested in having a different name on their diploma should contact Baquero at [email protected].