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April 08, 2010

Category: Schools

California School District Officially Adopts Human Rights Campaign’s “Welcoming Schools Guide”

Successful Pilot Project Encourages Berkeley Administrators to Advocate for Wide Use

WASHINGTON - After four years of collaboration by parents, educators and administrators to make their schools supportive and inclusive of all families, the Berkeley, California School Board voted unanimously last month to adopt the Human Rights Campaign's "Welcoming Schools Guide" as official district curriculum. With strong leadership from the Our Family Coalition and many committed principals, teachers, parents, school board members, union representatives and district administrators throughout Berkeley Unified, this represents another victory in the pursuit of fairness, full inclusion and equality for all families, including those with LGBT parents/guardians.

"We applaud the Berkeley School Board for recognizing the importance of addressing diversity and bias in a way that includes LGBT individuals and families, and we are delighted that our 'Welcoming Schools Guide' was chosen as the resource that best supports this effort," said HRC Family Project Director Ellen Kahn.

The program is also being piloted in New Bedford, Mass., San Francisco, Calif. and Minneapolis, Minn. Video from the Berkeley School Board's hearing on the matter can be viewed at: vimeo.com/9803894

"Berkeley Unified School District has a real desire and commitment to create a welcoming culture at every school and the Welcoming Schools Guide I believe is an essential component in that entire picture," said Neil Smith, assistant superintendent of the school district

Judy Appel, executive director of Our Family Coalition and member of the Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council, was among those who testified - along with district staff - on the merits of and need for Welcoming Schools.

"We were able to lead this charge in piloting Welcoming Schools only through a rich collaboration between parents, teachers, and principals which led to conversations in the parent community and with educators," said Appel. "With this support, educators successfully used the resources and lesson plans from Welcoming Schools in the classroom."

"Welcoming Schools is playing an important role in the New Bedford Public Schools," said Dr. Lawrence J. Finnerty, former assistant superintendent, New Bedford Public Schools and a current member of the New Bedford School Committee. "Our pilot program explicitly demonstrates that this community acknowledges and respects all children and their families in the life of the school. Safe schools start with respect for all so that everyone truly feels welcomed."

The "Welcoming Schools Guide," offered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Family Project, is a comprehensive resource for administrators, educators, parents and guardians who want to strengthen their school's approach to family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying. Welcoming Schools is an approach specifically developed for elementary schools (K-5) and is inclusive of LGBT families and individuals in the broader context of diversity. Welcoming Schools is currently being piloted in three school districts and others, like Berkeley, are using the Welcoming Schools Guide to improve school climate and create a welcoming community for all students and their families. For more information visit www.welcomingschools.org.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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