Synergy and deadnaming: The confusion around self identification in PPS


Owen Adams

Britt Beiberich is the Districtwide Program Manager for LGBTQ2SIA+ Supports. They have been working on creating a new Student Name and/or Gender Marker Change Form.

Update: As of April 26, the new Name and/or Gender Change form has now replaced the old form on the PPS website.  The new form can be found here, or by searching for the “Name and/or Gender Change form” on the PPS website.

Synergy is a key learning management system (LMS) used throughout Portland Public Schools (PPS). Students and parents see part of this system when they log onto StudentVUE and ParentVUE. Teachers and substitute teachers primarily use Synergy to take attendance and to post grades. Synergy is how one is identified by name and gender as a student in PPS. For students who may want to identify differently from their given name or gender, it is often unclear how to make these changes to their identity in Synergy.

This lack of clarity has led to students being deadnamed in class. Deadnaming is when one calls a transgender person by their birth or given name when they have changed their name as part of their transition.

Eden Gervais is the head of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Lincoln.

“[Teachers will] call the wrong name on attendance, and substitutes will never know, and if teachers project attendance on the board it’ll be up there, and the whole class knows on the first day when teachers call attendance for the first time unless you tell them beforehand, and even then it still happens,” said Gervais. “It’s really uncomfortable when it happens because I don’t think that it’s anyone’s business what my legal name is, and it’s just outing students every time.”

However, Districtwide Program Manager for LGBTQ2SIA+ Supports Britt Beiberich (they/them) is working to clarify how this problem can be solved. In an interview with the Cardinal Times, Beiberich was able to clarify the process of changing your name and/or gender in Synergy and explain why the process has been so confusing. They are currently working on making the process smoother for students going forward.

According to Beiberich, the process of changing a name in Synergy relies on students filling out a form that requests a name change and then working with their school’s office to put the information from the form into Synergy. Currently, this form is being changed to be more accommodating to students’ rights, however, the old form is still the one publicly available on the PPS website.

When using the old form, with their parent’s permission students could change their name on Synergy, or change their preferred name but not their official one. Beiberich says the form was confusing, not easily accessible, and that office staff in many schools weren’t trained how to change a student’s name in Synergy once they submitted the form. In addition, the old form violates current PPS policy because it’s not legal to require students to get a parent’s permission to change their name.

“The current [identity change form] is undergoing revisions, and the revisions take time. So until those revisions can be finished, [the old form is] what people see up on the website,” said Beiberich.

Since Beiberich took the position of LGBTQ+ coordinator in the summer of 2021, they, along with a small team, have been working to both create a new form and train schools how to use it.

Currently, the new form exists but is not yet available on the PPS website, but if a student emailed Beiberich or talked to Lincoln’s office staff, they could get a copy of the new Student Name and/or Gender Marker Change Form. The new form doesn’t require students to get parental permission to change their name (although it is encouraged to tell your parents that you are changing your name because they will eventually see the name change in Synergy).

The new form also still allows students to change their preferred name in school but not their official name in the Synergy system. These two things are different. A student’s preferred name mainly impacts how a student is called during things like attendance. If you only change your preferred name then your official name in Synergy stays the same, meaning that on report cards and in StudentVue you’ll see your legal name and gender, but what Synergy tells teachers and subs to call you while in school is changed.

This system is still being perfected, and right now it isn’t entirely user-friendly. However, it is already a huge step forward in school policy surrounding changes in one’s name and gender.

Beiberich feels that this form and the process of changing your identity can’t continue to falter.

“Trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse students are a very vulnerable population, and PPS, while we’re doing what we can, we can be doing more,” said Beiberich.”There needs to be a lot of education about the challenges that are faced by that particular population, both staff, and student, and this Synergy piece is one simple thing that we need to be getting right.” 


To obtain the revised form, students can email Beiberich at [email protected] or ask in the office to get a copy of the form. Keep in mind that because Beiberich has a small staff and has only recently started their job, office staff might not be entirely trained on the protocol for the form or remember that there is a new form.