This year’s annual report celebrates the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program and its enduring impact on educators across the country in support of LGBTQ+ children and youth from preschool through high school.
Since the start of 2023, more than 420 discriminatory bills have been introduced in legislatures across the United States – marking the greatest number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced ever. One of the most notable trends was a resurgence of curriculum censorship and “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” bills that turn back the clock and restrict teachers from talking about things like LGBTQ+ people and the realities of slavery and racism in this country. This includes Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law -- and more than 100 curriculum censorship bills that have been introduced across 25 states.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools’ responsiveness to this shifting legal landscape and steadfast commitment to an intersectional approach and anti-racism features prominently in the program’s newest offerings and efforts. The further expansion of training to the secondary level, availability of Spanish translation for training and materials, and development of resources that have deepened a focus on anti-racism have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Our expert facilitators have continued to work with educators virtually and in person to expand accessibility across the country and internationally.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools has continued to successfully maintain and forge partnerships with school districts and organizations that multiply our reach and deepen educator practices. Many of these efforts, including The Kindness Project and the Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading, are highlighted in this report.
LGBTQ+ students and families live in every county and every zip code of this country. We’re multi-racial, multi-lingual, and have different abilities and talents. We deserve classrooms and school communities where we are welcomed for who we are and all we have to offer. I’m proud of the incredible work that the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools team does day in and day out to ensure that dream becomes a reality.
Jay Brown (He/Him/His) , Senior Vice President, Programs, Research & Training , Human Rights Campaign Foundation
Using an intersectional, anti-racist lens, The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is dedicated to providing actionable policies and practices for educators. Ensuring school communities have access to the critical tools necessary to embrace family diversity, prevent bias-based bullying and support transgender and non-binary students is the primary goal of the program.
Last year’s Annual Report highlighted Welcoming Schools’ expansion of secondary school trainings, booklists, and resources in response to the urgency of requests for professional development with attention to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ adolescents. The report also featured Welcoming Schools’ successful approach to reaching educators during the pandemic. Broadening training options to include virtual and hybrid delivery has had a positive impact on accessibility.
Since the idea for Welcoming Schools was hatched in 2004, the program has continued to demonstrate a responsiveness to the needs of our youth and the educators who are committed to ensuring that all students are able to feel safe and thrive in our school communities. This past year has been no exception as we celebrate the expansion of resources, the addition of dynamic new facilitators, and reaching educators in all 50 states and internationally.
Rarely or Never Felt Safe in One or More School Contexts
Rarely or Never Felt Safe in One or More School Contexts
Have Been Bullied at School Due to Sexual Identity or Gender
Human Rights Campaign National Survey of LGBTQ+ Teens, in partnership with the University of Connecticut (2022).
As a founding alliance member of The Choose Kindness Project, Welcoming Schools is thrilled to be a part of the nation’s leading organizations on bullying prevention, intentional inclusion and mental wellness. In collaboration with alliance partner the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Welcoming Schools has produced a powerful video and resource for secondary educators focused on identity-based bullying.
The promotional video below is a snapshot of the full video that will be available on our Welcoming Schools website in early summer 2023.
Welcoming Schools continuously works to update and expand their free resources for Pre-K–12 educators and youth-serving professionals. This year was no exception with the development of new conference modules, instructional resource guides for secondary educators, toolkits and booklists. Welcoming Schools is also in the process of ensuring all resources are accessible to those that speak Spanish, and are available on our website.
To access more of Welcoming Schools free resources, visit welcomingschools.org/resources
On February 16, 2023, Welcoming Schools hosted its eighth annual “Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading: A Celebration of Stories Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Youth” (formerly called Jazz and Friends: National Day of School and Community Readings). This year’s event offered expanded readings and lesson prompts for secondary schools and provided an opportunity for thousands of students, educators, parents, elected officials and allies to join in solidarity with transgender and non-binary students. The readings exceeded expectations with 38,000 participants from locations all across the country, United Arab Emirates, Ghana and Canada engaged in the event. The Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading was sponsored by the HRC Foundation as well as the National Educational Association (NEA), the country’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million educators across the U.S and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), representing over 7,000 school librarians in the U.S., Canada and abroad.
At HRC Headquarters, Welcoming Schools hosted DC Public Elementary School students and families for a reading with HRC President Kelley Robinson and NEA Vice President Princess Moss.
Analysis of a 2020 HRC Foundation survey of youth-serving professionals shows that they are far more likely to be equipped to serve and protect LGBTQ+ young people in their work when they receive targeted training on LGBTQ+ topics. Schools and other youth-serving organizations need to provide these learning opportunities for their staff, and individuals should seek out training — both in-person and online, to build their knowledge and skills for working with LGBTQ+ youth.
Educators who have engaged in Welcoming Schools professional development consistently report a deepened understanding of the urgency of this work and an increased confidence in their ability to support LGBTQ+ students and foster affirming, inclusive school environments.
"Thank you so much for this explicit and informative presentation. I felt validated in our work and supported in pushing us forward to greater consistency of language and practice as we continue along our learning continuum creating a welcoming and affirming school environment. Very nicely done!"
Since 2011, Welcoming Schools has trained educators in all 50 States, plus DC, Aruba, Bahamas, Denmark, El Salvador, Germany, Honduras, Mexico, Qatar, Taiwan and Uganda.
1. Creating Gender Inclusive Schools
Provides guidance on developing a framework for creating a gender inclusive school. Educators gain the skills and knowledge to be able to respond to challenging questions related to gender.
2. Creating LGBTQ+ Inclusive Schools
Highlights important school practices that create LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive schools. Provides guidance and practice in how to seek teachable moments and respond to questions about LGBTQ+ and gender topics.
3. Preventing Bias-Based Bullying
Emphasizes the critical need to proactively address behavior that can lead to bullying and strategies to foster ally behavior among students, staff and other adults.
"This was a very helpful workshop. It helped me understand practices to use as well as the importance of them…I often come into some internal conflict with my beliefs…This training helped me understand how I can maintain my beliefs while still being inclusive."
SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Schools that prove themselves to be exemplary in implementing the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools approach can earn the Seal of Excellence (SOE). Benchmarks for achieving the Seal of Excellence include having policies and procedures in place that include all aspects of students’ multiple identities, establishing a Welcoming Schools leadership team, completion of all Welcoming Schools training modules for staff, integration of Welcoming Schools’ lessons, books and activities as part of the structured curriculum, hosting family nights and sharing information and resources. Welcoming Schools’ intention is to foster growth towards equitable and inclusive school climates.
Welcoming Schools is proud to recognize Seaton Elementary School, a community based on diverse cultures, creative community partnerships and vibrant parent involvement, located in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC. Over the past three years, Seaton Elementary has completed all of the required Welcoming Schools training modules and demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting a safe and welcoming school for all students.
Seaton’s accomplishments include:
Completed the Welcoming Schools Climate Assessment
Modified their student dress code to be gender inclusive
Established a leadership team that includes faculty and staff across the school
Facilitated an LGBTQ+ point of contact group for students
Used Welcoming Schools booklists and lesson plans across all grade levels
Purchased Welcoming Schools-endorsed books for classroom libraries
Introduced school-wide events such as a Rainbow Family Mixer, Transgender Awareness Day, Share the Pride Week and Drag Storytime
Participated in the Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading 2023 at HRC Headquarters
Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) serves over 131,000 students in Maryland. Welcoming Schools trained a cohort of 14 educational leaders from the district in 2021 and they began rolling out professional development to staff in 2022. The district facilitators in PGCPS are working systemwide in an effort to train ALL 20,000 staff members. PGCPS adopted additional district-wide policies, including specific guidance to support transgender and gender non-conforming students.
Welcoming Schools trainings are delivered by a diverse cadre of certified facilitators who work with educators across the country. Our trainers are experienced leaders in the field of education, allowing them to provide meaningful connections to this work for schools and classrooms. The program welcomed 15 dynamic facilitators to the group this summer, expanding the program’s capacity to meet the increasing need for trainings that address the diverse needs of our school communities.
"LOVED the facilitators and really liked how vulnerable they were with sharing their stories and acknowledging the uncomfortableness that some people feel."
"Both presenters were extremely knowledgeable and very informative and compassionate about what they were teaching to us. Thank you!"
"The presenters had such great real-world guidance and were so warm and enthusiastic."
"Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. I especially appreciated that both facilitators had classroom experience -- I think that's a meaningful connection for our faculty."
Thank you to HRC Foundation Senior Vice President, Jay Brown and HRC Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships, Ellen Kahn for their leadership in guidance.
Thank you to our amazing consultants, Toni Smith, Jennifer Herdina, Angie Powers for your expertise and knowledge in developing our new resources.
A special thank you to our consultant, Cindy Bohrer, for drafting this annual report in addition to being an expert copy editor.
Thank you to the finance team for being such strong partners with us to ensure our fee for service model thrives, and to general counsel for their leadership and guidance with all things related to our contracts and intellectual property.
Thank you to the Marketing and Communications team for always elevating our important work in such a meaningful way.
A heartfelt thank you to all of our national facilitators delivering Welcoming Schools training so effectively to schools around the country.
Thanks to Glenda Santiago Marrero for her work in translating this report in Spanish.
Last but certainly not least, thank you to Tarine Wright for designing this annual report in such a beautiful, compelling format.