While the first day of school is an exciting time for many, back to school can also be anxiety-inducing for both students and their families. This is especially true for LGBTQ families who, in addition to bus runs and lunch money, have to worry about whether or not their children’s families will be seen and included in all aspects of the school experience.

As a former teacher and now Program Director of HRC’s Welcoming Schools, it saddens me to hear parents, care givers or guardians say that they don’t feel like they can fully participate in the school community or that they can’t talk to the teacher openly about their own family. To be sure, there are many schools and educators who are fully inclusive and welcoming of all types of families, but there’s much work still to be done. LGBTQ families can be a part of changing school culture, and Welcoming Schools has resources to help them do just that.

There are many actions LGBTQ families can take to support their children in elementary school. With your own child, it’s important to build resilience and pride, discuss different types of families, and practice with them how to respond to questions about their family. Take time at an open house or with a phone call to touch base with the teacher about how they address family diversity, name-calling, and bullying. In the larger school community, get involved — whether it’s volunteering in your child’s classroom, joining the PTA, or organizing a family program.

An essential component of improving the school diversity climate is professional development for teachers. If staff have questions, direct them to the Welcoming Schools website for our school resources. Ask the principal about training for teachers, and encourage them to request more information about our program — or do it yourself.

Please know that we at Welcoming Schools are here to support you. We know that families are children’s first frame of reference for their world, and that they need to know that their families matter. With your help, we can make great strides in making schools safe, inclusive and welcoming for your children and for all children.

Housed by the HRC Foundation, Welcoming Schools and Time to THRIVE are national programs to help LGBTQ youth succeed. Welcoming Schools provides professional development to educators and free resources to educators and families to support a respectful elementary school climate for all students.  Time to THRIVE is an annual national conference that brings together K-12 educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency to better support LGBTQ youth.


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