Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in School Leadership


Center for Leadership & Learning


College of Education

Committee Chair

Dr. John A. Freeman

Second Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Gordon

Third Committee Member

Dr. Shelly Albritton

Program Director

Dr. John A. Freeman

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Richard Schoephoerster


Arkansas schools have received changing and conflicting guidance for accommodating transgender students, and policies and practices within schools can critically impact this population. This mixed-methods, exploratory study investigated what official policies and unofficial but established practices exist in Arkansas high schools regarding transgender students’ use of preferred names and pronouns as well as their access to sex-separated facilities and activities. The study also examined the frequency of such policies and practices within various school demographic categories including school size, community type, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. The researcher analyzed survey results from 55 secondary principals in Arkansas. Few schools had formal policies regarding transgender students in the aforementioned areas. In established but unofficial practice, the use of students’ preferred names and gender was more common in the classroom than on official records. For sex-separated facilities, schools often provided a private or unisex option or required students to use the restrooms corresponding to their sex on official records. Regarding sex-separated activities, schools generally decided on a case-by-case basis instead of an established procedure. Over a third of principals did not report having a transgender student within the past three years, and a chi-square test showed none of the four demographic variables appear to affect the frequencies or types of policies and procedures regarding transgender students. In a qualitative analysis of the open-response questions, three themes arose: the importance of respecting student needs, the favored flexibility in not having a formal policy, and the mixed reactions from varied stakeholders. Recommendations for practice and future research are included.