HRC Blog

HRC Welcoming Schools in Austin – Helping All Children Thrive

This post comes from Meghan Stabler, HRC Board Member.

Schools should be places where children can learn and thrive without fear of hurtful teasing and name-calling of any kind. To help all children feel safe and welcome, schools must pro-actively address all name-calling and hurtful teasing. Anti-gay and gender-based teasing begins in elementary school and can become pervasive at this age. It is important to think about the impact on children who are targets of this teasing and the feelings of the perpetrators and bystanders.

Creating a school that nurtures academic achievement, provides physical and emotional safety and welcomes all students and families are goals common to all educators. One way to do this is to create a gender-expansive environment where all students can thrive and learn to their fullest potential and where gender-expansive messages empower children rather than limit them.

This evening I, along with a full auditorium of others, including AISD teachers and administrators from school districts around Austin attended HRC’s “Welcoming Schools: Helping All Children Thrive” educational event led by Rhonda Thomason, HRC’s Educational Consultant, at the historic George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Our families are diverse, with transgender and transsexual parents and children, same-sex committed couples, gay, lesbian and gender questioning children and the 2010 census reporting a substantial increase in same-sex parents raising children. Same-sex couples live in 99.3% of all countries and in every state in the USA and interestingly children fear anti-gay harassment more than any other kind of name-calling. Even children as young as pre-school age get teased because they don't conform to gender norms.

Families are children’s first place from which they view their world. Children in elementary school still strongly identify with their families and they need to know that their families matter. Research shows that students perform better academically and socially when there is a positive relationship between families and schools. Thus laying groundwork of inclusion and acceptance of differences in education is one of the keys to success when embracing family diversity, avoiding gender stereotyping, and ending bullying and name-calling in K-5 learning environments.

Creating a safe and welcoming school for all children and families takes many people – from administrators to educators and staff to parents and guardians.

HRC’s Welcoming Schools content and training is a comprehensive guide that helps elementary schools develop and LGBT inclusive approach to:

  • Embrace family diversity
  • Avoid gender stereotyping
  • End name-calling and bullying

Schools should be places where all children feel safe and secure, and adult-learned bias should be excluded. Because families are often discussed as part of an elementary school classroom curriculum, it is important for students from every kind of family to see their lives reflected in the classroom or the school. For example, finding better ways to openly discuss “Father’s Day” when a child has two mommies, or being more inclusive of the richness of today’s modern family talking about home life.

Welcoming Schools is a rich resource backed with the strong commitment of HRC and funders to bring the resources and trainers to educators. I was particularly pleased to see that the resources are not only interactive but also require educators and community collaboration. In bringing the resource to Texas “Welcoming Schools” is aligned with Texas Academic Standards, Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Hopefully when using this wonderful resource it will be evident and explicit that the experience of being “other” or “different” removes the invisibility of the family and child.

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