Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant

Recently released data from Wisconsin’s Youth Behavior Survey shows that students with marginalized identities, including LGBTQ students, students of color and students with disabilities, feel less safe and supported at school than their counterparts. While the revelation is distressing, caring adults are not powerless to help. HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools has a proven record of addressing systemic disparities like those revealed by the data, including in the state of Wisconsin.

The statistics, gathered in 2017 in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control, include the following findings:

  • Students who identified as LGBTQ were the least likely to feel they belonged in school.
  • Twenty-five percent of Black students reported that they felt unsafe, compared with 10 percent of white students.
  • LGBTQ students were more likely to report significant problems with anxiety (67 percent) and to have considered suicide (41 percent).

The alarming data requires immediate attention -- but where can schools turn? Welcoming Schools professional development is an ideal resource for educators who want to address the specific concerns revealed by the survey. Welcoming Schools uses an intersectional approach that values and honors all aspects of students’ identities. The program fosters a school climate that values the social, emotional and academic well-being of each person in the school community, with a focus on those with marginalized identities.

HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools has achieved proven results in Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), the second-largest district in Wisconsin. Since the partnership began in 2013, MMSD has seen a wave of positive changes in school culture across the district. For example, MMSD teachers report that they are better equipped to foster allyship behaviors in their students.

It is understandable to be alarmed by the data coming out of Wisconsin, but it also serves as a call to action. Students across the country are counting on us to cultivate school environments that ensure not only their safety, but also the opportunity to thrive -- especially for our most marginalized students.

HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to:

  • Welcome Diverse Families;
  • Create LGBTQ and Gender Inclusive Schools;
  • Prevent Bias-Based Bullying;
  • Support Transgender and Non-Binary Students.

For more information, visit www.welcomingschools.org/.


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