Other Group

Welcoming Schools

TYPE:

LGBT inclusiveness curriculum

Project of:

Human Rights Campaign

Welcoming Schools is a project run by the left-of-center Human Rights Campaign that promotes LGBT “inclusiveness” in public schools. The program trains teachers on gender identity, transgenderism, and other LGBT topics. The program has an online glossary of LGBT terms to teach to elementary students among dozens of other resources.

The program increased in visibility in 2021 and 2022 in the face of what it calls state-level “anti-LGBTQ+ bills that target students, parents, and educators” and has drawn criticism from the political right for targeting teachers of preschool students. The program claims to have trained more than 16,000 teachers in 2021 from 37 states as well as teachers in Canada and Taiwan, reaching nearly four million students. [1] [2]

Background

Welcoming Schools was formed in 2004 as a project of the greater Boston chapter of PFLAG, a national LGBT advocacy group with 375 chapters across the United States. The first meeting of the organization was a working group of Boston-based teachers, school administrators, and LGBT activists to “examine how LGBTQ+ topics affected elementary students.” [3]

In 2005, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which had previously focused solely on politics and lobbying, began to develop a public education and outreach arm and established the HRC Foundation. The HRC Foundation created a Children, Youth, and Families program to “help elementary schools support children with LGBTQ+ parents.” As the program’s work around training elementary and secondary school teachers grew, it decided to absorb Welcoming Schools, which was transferred from the Greater Boston PFLAG and GLSEN Boston to the management of the HRC Foundation in 2006. [4]

In 2008, Welcoming Schools was piloted in 12 schools and in 2010 the group launched a website that offered free lesson plans that it claims have reached more than 8 million students. [5]

Activities

Welcoming Schools purports to employ more than 150 facilitators who have trained teachers in 43 states, reaching more than 10.5 million students as of 2021. The group calls itself the “most comprehensive, bias-based bullying prevention program in the nation to provide LGBTQ+ and gender inclusive professional development training, lesson plans, booklists and resources specifically designed for Pre K-12 educators and youth-serving professionals” and says it operates through a “an intersectional, anti-racist lens.” [6]

While the early focus of the group’s programs centered around supporting students with gay and lesbian parents, the organization has since created lesson plans that ask teachers to “teach about transgender and non-binary people and to affirm all students’ identities across the gender spectrum.” [7] Its training programs have also been distributed by the National Education Association, the left-leaning teachers union. [8]

Criticism

Welcoming Schools has been criticized by right-leaning sources, such as the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs, for creating lesson plans for  students as young as pre-kindergarten and potentially exposing students to “inappropriate” content. [9] The program has also been mentioned in reporting around a law enacted in Florida banning age-inappropriate lesson plans that was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by left-leaning activists. [10] [11]

References

  1. “Press Release: Human Rights Campaign Foundation Launches Inaugural Report LGBTQ+ School Inclusion Efforts.” Human Rights Campaign. April 12, 2022. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/human-rights-campaign-foundation-launches-inaugural-report-lgbtq-school-inclusion-efforts ^
  2. “LGBTQ+ Definitions.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/resources/lgbtq-definitions ^
  3. “History.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/about/history ^
  4. “History.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/about/history ^
  5. “History.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/about/history ^
  6. “History.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://welcomingschools.org/about/history ^
  7. [1] “Lesson Plans to Create Gender Expansive Classrooms and Support Transgender and Non-Binary Students.” Welcoming Schools. Accessed July 21, 2022.  https://welcomingschools.org/resources/lesson-plans-gender-identity-transgender-non-binary ^
  8. “Welcoming Schools Virtual Training Modules.” National Education Association. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://www.nea.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Welcoming-Schools-Virtual-Training-Modules-2020.pdf ^
  9. Carter, Ray. “Bixby Backs Away from LGBTQ Training for Pre-K Teachers.” Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs. May 17, 2022. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://www.ocpathink.org/post/bixby-backs-away-from-lgbtq-training-for-pre-k-teachers ^
  10. [1] Moolten, Shira. “Broward School District Donated LGBTQ Books Ahead of New Florida Law. South Florida Sun Sentinel. July 8, 2022. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-ne-broward-schools-lgbtq-books-20220708-mqbfatmyajgufcfix4mhdtlnwe-story.html ^
  11. Mouley, Maxine. “‘We say gay’: Berkeley school district clashes with restrictive LGBTQ+ Florida legislation.” The Daily Californian. June 22, 2022. https://www.dailycal.org/2022/06/22/we-say-gay-berkeley-school-district-clashes-with-restrictive-lgbtq-florida-legislation/ ^
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