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HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program has set roots across America, including in major cities like Houston, Texas.

The program focuses on an LGBT-inclusive approach to addressing family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying and name-calling. Working together, we can help communities make schools safe and welcoming for all students and families. 

Garden Oaks Montessori School, based in Houston, received the inaugural Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence last year.

In the Houston Independent School District Blog, Garden Oaks Elementary Principal Dr. Lindsey Pollack noted, “When we create safe spaces for all people, we’re all the better for it. Nobody has to hide. And that’s just better for everybody.”

Garden Oaks wasn’t the only school to work with Welcoming Schools in Houston. St. Stephen’s Episcopal School Houston, the first parochial school in the country to partner with Welcoming Schools, has worked to HRC to ease tensions that often exist between religious institutions and the LGBT community.

David Coe, head of St. Stephen’s, told HRC, “We at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School Houston, celebrate the diversity of our student body and their families. We value individuality, faith and all kinds of families as they create the foundation for a better education.”

Unfortunately, Austin Wallis, a 17-year-old high school student and video blogger in Houston, claimed in a recent video that he was forced to change school because of his sexual orientation. His school, which has been identified as Lutheran High North (affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod), told the Texas Observer that, “the allegations you received have been misrepresented.”

Being supported at home, in school and in the community is important for all children and youth – especially LGBTQ youth. We know that the deck is stacked against LGBTQ youth. HRC’s groundbreaking report, Growing Up LGBT in America, found that only 64 percent of high school youth say they are out to their classmates and non-LGBT youth are nearly twice as likely as LGBT youth to say they are happy.

While Wallis’s high school is not part of the Welcoming Schools program, HRC will continue to work with schools in the Houston area and across the nation so that other LGBTQ youth, like Wallis, won’t be in a similar situation ever again.

More information about Welcoming Schools can be found here.

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