Welcoming Schools Annual Report 2024

Fiscal Year 2024

Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Letter From Kelley Robinson


This year's annual report highlights the significant achievements of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Welcoming Schools program, emphasizing its impact on educators and youth-serving professionals nationwide to support safe and inclusive Pre-K-12 school environments for all children and youth.

Welcoming Schools has continued to serve as a beacon, providing accessible training, resources, and actionable policies and practices at a time when proposals for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation specifically targeting our youth is at a devastatingly high level. We know this work is critical to preventing identity-based bullying and creating safe spaces through allyship and supportive practices.

Welcoming Schools’ annual National Day of Reading celebrated LGBTQ+ representation in literature. Our youth have a right to learn and to access books that reflect their families and individual identities, including books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters. With book bans and challenges continuing to surface across the country, Welcoming Schools’ efforts to support school libraries and classrooms with LGBTQ+ booklists, lesson plans, and book donations.

HRC's Welcoming Schools program is a beacon of hope in the face of adversity, navigating a challenging legal landscape with unwavering dedication to an inclusive and intersectional approach. Our latest initiatives showcase our commitment to expanding opportunities for secondary-level training, making resources more accessible through Spanish translation, and embracing the power of e-learning. We leave no stone unturned in our mission to reach educators far and wide, both virtually and in person, ensuring that our impact extends across the nation and beyond. In just the past year, an astounding 13,000 educators have actively participated in Welcoming Schools training, positively influencing the lives of over 750,000 students.

Every LGBTQ+ student and family deserves to thrive in an educational environment that not only acknowledges their identities but also guarantees their rights to a safe and nurturing climate. It fills me with immense pride to witness the unwavering dedication of the HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools team as they tirelessly transform this vision into a tangible reality each and every day. Together, we are shaping a brighter future.


Kelley Robinson (She/Her/Hers) , President , Human Rights Campaign


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’ work with The Choose Kindness Project to produce resources for secondary educators on identity-based bullying and the development of resources that demonstrate the program’s commitment to anti-racism and accessibility.

Welcoming Schools continues to expand the scope of resources and opportunities available to educators across the country and internationally. The urgency of our work has remained consistent in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposals and violence. Welcoming Schools has and will continue to respond by supporting educators and youth-serving professionals with the tools and guidance they need to create safe and inclusive spaces for ALL youth in our schools.

Why Is This Work Important?

46% of LGBTQ+ Youth

Report Feeling Unsafe in at Least One School Setting

54% of Transgender or Gender Expansive Youth

Report Feeling Unsafe in at Least One School Setting

52% of LGBQ+ Youth

Were Victimized Specifically Due to Their Sexual Identity, Gender Identity, and/or Gender Expression

56% of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Youth

Were Victimized Specifically Due to Their Sexual Identity, Gender Identity, and/or Gender Expression

Anne and Allyson's Story

Anne and her wife Allyson have two young children, one of whom identifies as gender-expansive. In 2023, they moved from North Carolina in part because the current landscape, policies, and legislation made it difficult to raise their child in a safe and affirming school environment. Educators were unfamiliar with the usage of they/them pronouns and lacked confidence in safeguarding their child from bullying. To ensure their child’s mental and physical safety, the family moved to Minnesota. Their child now attends a school where educators engage in LGBTQ+ inclusive professional development, understand the importance of using correct names and pronouns, and where they can just be a kid!

It should not be the responsibility of a child or parent to explain or teach others about their identity, gender expression, or affirmed name and pronouns.

Welcoming Schools continuously works to update and develop free resources for Pre-K–12 educators and youth-serving professionals. This year was no exception with the expansion of secondary resources, conference and booster presentation sessions and Spanish language translations. Welcoming Schools’ commitment to anti-racism is illuminated in fresh material that emphasizes the importance of recognizing intersectionality and unconscious bias to prevent identity-based bullying. Our newest training, for both educators and community members, Advocacy and Allyship for LGBTQ+ Youth, provides participants with foundational knowledge paired with responses and practices that take allyship and advocacy to the next level.

Secondary Instructional Resource Guides

Welcoming Schools instructional resource guides are designed to provide secondary students with extended learning opportunities to explore LGBTQ+ and gender topics through literature.

View Here

To access more Welcoming Schools free resources, visit our

Welcoming Schools has also developed a new 4-part series available on HRC’s eLearning digital platform, expanding access to important professional development to educators across the country. This offering gives secondary educators the critical skills to create affirming classrooms for LGBTQ+ students and increases the reach of our work exponentially.

Welcoming Schools eLearning modules:

  • What is SOGIE?

  • The Importance of LGBTQ+ Inclusion

  • Practice Teachable Moments

  • Creating an Action Plan for an LGBTQ+ Inclusive School

Access HRC Learn Here!

On March 5, 2024, Welcoming Schools hosted its ninth Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading: A Celebration of Stories Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Youth. 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 36,000 participants from locations all across the country, and reaching 130,000 people on social media. 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.

Heather Hornor of the National Association of School Librarians joined HRC National Press Secretary, Brandon Wolf for a reading of Introducing Teddy for the Welcoming Schools National Day of Reading in Dallas, TX. Photo credit: Associated Press

Analysis of a 2023 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.

After Welcoming Schools training, 89% of educators reported high levels of confidence in their knowledge and ability to support LGBTQ+ students

I want to be more conscious of the different bystanders associated with bullying. Try to empower and teach the students to stand up for each other.”
“I want to be knowledgeable and create opportunities for my class to examine social media and books to increase their media literacy around LGBTQ+ topics.”
I want to change “the way I approach conversations about differences in families. Allowing and encouraging curiosity in uncomfortable situations but responding in an appropriate way and slowing down situations with questions.”
“I plan to implement more inclusive books. I also plan to be more explicit in my teaching about pronouns (as a speech therapist).”
180 Trainings
13,000 Educators
750,000 Students Impacted

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. Embracing All Families

Emphasizes the importance of recognizing and embracing family diversity in policies and practices. Educators gain the skills to answer questions from students and families about the importance of welcoming all families in their school community.

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 presentation was so powerful and meaningful. The presenters have real life connections and gave us a chance to practice answering questions. This was an awesome experience as a person and (as an) educator.”
“Spreading the word to colleagues with school-based positions to attend this training and implement these ideas in their schools!”
“I wish the district would make this mandatory, especially for teachers and admins at the 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, completing all Welcoming Schools training modules for staff, integrating 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.

This year three schools from Utah, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have achieved the Seal of Excellence with another six from Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Wisconsin on track to complete the requirements in the year ahead!

Photo from official Washington International School (WIS) website


Welcoming Schools is proud to highlight Washington International School (WIS) as the first school to receive the Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence at both the elementary and secondary levels. In addition to utilizing Welcoming Schools resources and completing all of the required SOE training modules, WIS has demonstrated a deep commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ+ and gender-expansive students are centered in policies and practice. Attention to the consistent use of affirmed names and pronouns, inclusivity in sports team participation and access to facilities that align with a student’s gender identity are foundational to creating a safe school environment at WIS. In addition to the efforts of an active parent community, WIS supports student engagement through an elementary affinity group and secondary Pride Alliance. What further sets WIS apart is its success in navigating the complexity of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the context of a diverse international community hailing from 100 countries. We are inspired to uphold WIS as a beacon for international school communities aspiring to utilize a comprehensive approach from preschool through Grade 12.


Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), the largest school district in the state of Wisconsin, encompasses 156 K-12 schools and over 69,000 students. Notably, this district stands out for its rich diversity with 90% of students identifying as youth of color. Amidst this vibrant diversity, the district endeavors to foster an environment that celebrates inclusivity and embraces the unique identities of each student. With a commitment to providing quality education and promoting equity, this expansive educational institution plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of its community and beyond.

The district’s Department of Gender and Identity Inclusion provides leadership on an innovative initiative that sets this Wisconsin school district apart as a pioneer in LGBTQ+ inclusion within K-12 public education. This department stands as the sole district entity in Wisconsin's public school system dedicated to allocating funds specifically for LGBTQ+ students. In 2023, the initiative took a significant step forward by training 17 Welcoming Schools district facilitators, empowering them to make training modules available to schools upon request and to offer a district-wide drop-in series for individual educators seeking to enhance their understanding and practices.

Throughout this pilot year, the district has set ambitious goals aimed at ensuring that every educator within the district possesses LGBTQ+ awareness and access to information on how to support students and families. Internally, efforts have been focused on creating supportive spaces and programs for students, with initiatives like the GSA Advisor Collective bringing together advisors from various schools to build connections and share resources. This collective effort has resulted in a significant increase in the number of GSAs from 27 to over 50, providing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students and allies. At a time when book bans are restricting student access to representation in literature, Milwaukee Public Schools partnered with Open Books to ensure that every school library has a set of LGBTQ+-affirming books.

Following Welcoming Schools training, Milwaukee educators plan to…

“...use some of the lessons that are on the HRC Welcoming Schools page in some of my classrooms. They are excellent!”

“...ask students to fill out a "getting to know you" form at the beginning of term asking for pronouns and nicknames.”
“...concentrate on looking at a person as an individual and acknowledging my biases and mistakes without guilt, but with knowledge of how to be an ally. The BIGGEST quote I am framing is - It is not the students’ job to teach the teachers - it is their job just to be a student.”
“...(use) ways to be more inclusive in addressing whole groups. Going from always saying "guys" to addressing a group and using more "students" "scholars" etc.”
“...interject more often when I see something negative happening, rather than trying to let students work it out on their own.”

School Spotlight

Photo from official Pueblo Gardens website


Pueblo Gardens PreK-8 School has a long history of being a safe school that parents trust with educators who care for students and the community. Over the years, Pueblo Gardens’ district has invested in efforts to elicit student voices and affirm student identities and experiences in the classroom. Initially, district initiatives focused on equity outcomes and programs centered on race and ethnicity. As a result, the school became very proficient in integrating supports and curricular changes successfully.

Pueblo Gardens Principal, Dr. Michael Konrad recognized a need to extend the intentional work in support of LGBTQ+ and gender-expansive students.​​ In this majority Hispanic community, many adults lacked the vocabulary and experience to talk about LGBTQ+ identities. Pueblo Gardens students and families increasingly turned to school faculty and staff for guidance. As a result, Pueblo Gardens became the first school in Arizona to integrate Welcoming Schools resources into their approach to expanding diversity and inclusion efforts in support of LGBTQ+ youth and families. Dr. Konrad reflects, this was “a great opportunity to support my community, my own children at home and myself, and to have a wider impact, help our district and the wider community to have broader conversations and start creating structures to support all students and all families.” As a result, one of the areas Pueblo Gardens has focused on is how both students and adults talk about and with one another and themselves. Dr. Konrad has worked within district guidelines to reframe the use of inappropriate language as harassment and integrated intentional efforts to reduce identity-based bullying across the grades. These efforts have reportedly reduced the use of hurtful language and bullying behavior, a step that has bolstered their community as a safe and affirming learning environment.

Current Partnerships

Welcoming Schools is grateful for the collaborative efforts of our current partners:

A special thank you to HRC Foundation Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships, Ellen Kahn for her leadership and guidance.

Thank you to our cadre of amazing consultants for their expertise and knowledge in developing our new resources. A special thank you to Cindy Bohrer for drafting this annual report in addition to being an expert copy editor.

Deep appreciation to Ronnie Rivera and Ebony Lewis of Milwaukee Public Schools and Dr. Michael Konrad of Pueblo Gardens PreK-8 School in Tucson, Arizona for sharing their schools’ stories with us for this report.

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.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to Josette Matoto and Jane Ciminera for designing this annual report in such a beautiful, compelling format.