HRC Blog

HRC Participates in White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

The following post is by Rhonda Thomason, Welcoming Schools Southern Region Consultant:

White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities Tuesday’s White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities at the University of Texas Arlington was huge—even by Texas standards. It was a groundbreaking end to silence and a call for communities to stand up for LGBT people in communities and schools. One powerful moment was Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s account of how a violent raid at a gay bar mobilized members of the LGBT community to educate the police force.  Halstead praised the community’s efforts that have led the police force to adopt an LGBT inclusive model of   “compassion, service and success.” We can all hope that Chief Halstead’s model will find its way into Texas schools.

Welcoming Schools was represented by Kim Westheimer who did a superb job on a plenary session Safe Schools Panel.  She stressed the importance of addressing bias in preK-12 education and gave concrete examples of how schools have created LGBT inclusive communities. Conversations continued in afternoon sessions with Welcoming Schools participation in two Bullying Prevention & Intervention Workshops. Parents, educators and community groups were delighted by the What Do You Know? film trailer and expressed excitement about what Welcoming Schools could offer their schools.

A recurring theme of the day was how much things are changing for the better. A former University of Texas at Arlington student spoke to me about his own difficulty less than five years earlier finding and connecting with the campus GSA. There was no visible outreach, membership identity was secretive and meeting notices were shared only through email. Today there are signs in UTA hallways promoting GSA meetings and powerful voices like Attorney General Eric Holder, Valerie Jarrett, and Judy Shepard joining local voices speaking for LGBT civil rights and safety. Even for Texas, it was big!

For more about the conference go to:

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