HRC to Hold Two Online Screenings of Groundbreaking Welcoming Schools Film

by HRC Staff

Elementary school students describe the impact of anti-LGBT bullying

WASHINGTON – As the nation continues to reel from devastating reports of school bullying, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, will hold two online screenings of a new short film for school staff and parents featuring 6-12 year olds talking about gays and lesbians.  The screening will be followed by a webinar for educators and administrators led by the film’s director Ellen Brodsky, and Kim Westheimer, director of HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program.   

Schools must be places where students are taught to respect and value others at an early age,” said Welcoming Schools Director, Kim Westheimer.  “Elementary school-aged students are already having conversations about gay and lesbian people, and many of those conversations are connected to bullying and harassment.  The children in this film make it clear that they want schools to be places where these harmful behaviors are not accepted.  The children’s wisdom, humor, and courage send a powerful message to adults about how we can create safe school climates for all students.”

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 at film festivals in the U.S. and abroad.  The online screening will also feature the 4-minute DVD extra, Teachers Respond, in which teachers and school administrators discuss their students’ understanding of gay and lesbian families.  

You cannot watch the film What Do You Know without being impressed with, and sometimes surprised by, the knowledge and wisdom of the students featured in the film,” said Bill Kowba, Superintendent, San Diego Unified School District  “At the same time, the students tell us what we already know. If we want to run successful, high-achieving schools we need to ensure that all students are respected and that schools are free from harassment and bullying."

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 approach for elementary schools with tools, lessons, and resources to embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping, and end bullying and name-calling. The program has regional staff and consultants who work directly with schools and have worked with educators and parents in 20 states and the District of Columbia. For more information or to sign up for the monthly newsletter, visit

Bullying and harassment of LGBT students have been documented for decades, but has only recently begun to receive the widespread attention that it deserves.  Over 85% of LGBT students report being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and the suicide rate for LGBT students continues to be 3-4 times higher than that of their straight counterparts (National Education Policy Center, 2010.).  A 2012 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Harris Interactive shows that 26% of elementary school students report hearing other students use terms like "fag" or "lesbo." Currently only 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.

WHAT:           Online Premier of What Do You Know? 6-12 Year Olds Talk About Gays and Lesbians and discussion with film director and Welcoming Schools Director.


WHO:             Ellen Brodsky, film director
                        Kim Westheimer, Welcoming Schools Director

WHEN:           Wednesday April 4, 2012, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EDT
                          Thursday April 5. 2012, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. EDT

 WHERE:        Register online by April 3, 2012 at              

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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