HRC Joins NEA and AFT for Premiere of Groundbreaking Welcoming Schools Film

by HRC Staff

Elementary school students describe the impact of anti-LGBT bullying

WASHINGTON – In the ongoing effort to create safe and welcoming schools, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, is joining the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – the two largest organizations representing educators – this Thursday January 12 for the national film premiere of a new short film for school staff and parents featuring 6-12 year olds talking about gays and lesbians.  The film premier will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director, the director of HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program, a retired Alabama teacher, and a professor of multicultural education.   

“Sadly anti-LGBT bullying and harassment is a problem even in elementary schools,” said HRC Family Project Director Ellen Kahn.  “Kids are having conversations about gay and lesbian people regardless of whether adults take part in framing these conversations.  It is our responsibility to educate and be prepared to interrupt negative behaviors and comments.”

The film, titled What do you Know? 6-12 Year Olds Talk About Gays and Lesbians, was created as a professional development tool for educators and features students from Massachusetts and Alabama discussing what they know about gay men and lesbians, what they hear at school, and what they’d like teachers to do.  The film has received praise from film festivals in the U.S. and abroad.   

“In just 13 minutes, the children featured in the film What Do You Know, give us a wealth of insight, information and advice about how to include all children and families in our schools,” said Susan Gorin, Executive Director of the National Association of School Psychologists and a member of the Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council.  “They let us know that we can’t stop anti-gay name-calling and harassment unless we are willing to have dialogue and educate.”

The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is a comprehensive guide for elementary schools with tools, lessons, and resources to embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping, and end bullying and name-calling.  Currently, 74 schools in 24 school districts across the country are implementing the Welcoming Schools program.  For more information, visit

Currently 16 states have enacted laws prohibiting harassment and/or bullying of elementary and high school students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Twenty-two others have laws prohibiting bullying in schools but list no categories of protection.  Nationally, bullying of LGBT students is pervasive.  Over 85% of LGBT students report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity and the suicide rate for LGBT students continues to be 3-4 times higher than that of their straight counterparts.

WHAT:          National Film Premier of What Do You Know? 6-12 Year Olds Talk About Gays  and Lesbians and panel discussion with film director and education experts.

WHO:             Ellen Brodsky, film director
                        Kim Westheimer, Welcoming Schools Director
                        Rhonda Thomason, retired Alabama teacher and Welcoming Schools trainer
                        Vivian Carlo, Associate Professor, Multicultural Education, Lesley University
                        Stephen Henry, President Metropolitan Nashville Education Association

WHEN:          Thursday January 12, 2012, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:       National Education Association, 1201 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036


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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