Welcoming Schools Awards 12 Elementary Schools with Inaugural Seal of Excellence

by HRC Staff

Schools from across the country curb bullying, harassment & name-calling by implementing HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program

WASHINGTON – With increased urgency to stop bullying in America’s schools, educators are working diligently to get to the root of the problem in early grades.   This week, The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program is recognizing ten schools and two school districts that have gone the extra mile to create safe schools. Welcoming Schools provides resources, training and technical assistance to help elementary schools take a comprehensive approach to school climate and bullying prevention.  The Welcoming Schools approach is lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusive, and creates school climates that welcome all family structures and all students.

The first annual Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence Award ceremony at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, MN, will recognize 12 schools and districts from Minnesota, Florida, California, Washington and Texas.  Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius and State Sen. Scott Dibble will be special guests at the May 2 ceremony.  

The schools and school districts receiving the Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence are: Acorn Woodland Elementary School in Oakland, CA, Berkeley Arts Magnet in Berkeley, CA, Berkeley Unified School District in Berkeley, CA, Brouillet Elementary School in Puyallup, WA , Carver Elementary School in Maplewood, MN, Castle Elementary School in Oakdale, MN, Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet in Houston , TX, Hiawatha Leadership Academy in Minneapolis, MN, J.J. Hill Montessori in St. Paul, MN, Malcolm X Elementary in Berkeley, CA, Mirror Lake Elementary School  in Plantation, FL, and Puyallup School District in Washington state.

“Schools should be places where all students feel welcomed by their peers and adults,” said Kim Westheimer, director of HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program.  “But far too often students who are perceived as being different, face harassment and bullying. Teachers want to create an environment where every student is safe and to know how to intervene when conflict arises. Welcoming Schools helps them do just that.  The schools we’re honoring today have demonstrated a deep commitment to all students and families and have worked with us over time to create inclusive climates where all students can thrive.”

HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools’ regional staff and consultants have worked directly with schools, educators and parents in 25 states and the District of Columbia. This marks the first year of Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence, which will be awarded to schools or districts that have demonstrated high standards of implementation of the Welcoming Schools curriculum in the following areas:

  • Leadership Development – including an active leadership team working with individual schools
  • Professional Development – including full faculty workshops
  • Family Engagement – including community events
  • Classroom Strategies – including use of lesson plans

“The integration of Welcoming Schools into our curriculum and lessons on a regular basis has impacted my students in a very positive way,” said Dr. Lindsey Pollock, principal of Garden Oaks Montessori (PK3-8th grade) in Houston, TX.  “Children understand that any person can accomplish his or her dreams regardless of their gender, national origin, or any other visible or invisible differences.  Bullying has decreased tremendously and camaraderie has increased among the children in our classroom.  We are able to celebrate our differences more than ever after using Welcoming Schools.” 

The event will also feature the showing of the new Welcoming Schools professional development film, “What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying, and Bystanders,” a 12-minute film featuring teachers and students from J.J. Hill Montessori School in the Saint Paul Public School District and Hiawatha Leadership Academy in the Minneapolis Public School District.

Over 75 percent of students who are harassed, report that they are targeted because of their identity - including race, national origin, gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation, religion or ability. The Welcoming Schools program is an indispensable resource for educators at the Pre-kindergarten through 6th grade level working to help schools directly address and prevent these types of harassment.


WHAT:           Human Rights Campaign Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence Award Ceremony

WHO:            Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Commissioner of Education
                         Scott Dibble, state Senator
                         Kim Westheimer, Welcoming Schools Director

                         WHEN:           Friday May 2, 2014, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:        J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, 998 Selby Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55104 


The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of 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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