“Welcoming Schools,” HRC Foundation's Award-Winning Anti-Bullying Program Reaches Record 750,000 Students, Supporting Communities Amid Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Book Bans, Classroom Censorship

by Jared Todd

In states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws, school hate crimes quadrupled with corresponding rise in youth crisis hotline calls

In fiscal year 2024, Welcoming Schools worked with more than 13,000 educators nationwide to combat bias-based bullying, create gender-inclusive schools

After Welcoming Schools training, 89% of educators reported high levels of confidence in their knowledge and ability to support LGBTQ+ students

WASHINGTON — Today, the Welcoming Schools program — the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC)’s program to ensure pre-K-12 school communities have access to the tools and knowledge necessary to support family diversity, prevent bias-based bullying and support transgender and non-binary students — released its fourth annual report detailing the growth and impact of their work amidst widespread attacks on LGBTQ+ students, families and communities nationwide. This year, the Welcoming Schools program provided 180 training sessions to 13,000 educators and school leaders who reach approximately 750,000 students each day.

Welcoming Schools’ efforts have been crucial as recent data reveals alarming rates of bullying and harassment faced by LGBTQ+ youth in educational settings, a not unsurprising result of the rash of anti-LGTBQ+ legislation passed in states across the country. Overall, the number of anti-LGBTQ+ school hate crimes reported to authorities more than doubled nationwide between 2015 to 2019 and 2021 to 2022. According to a national survey conducted by HRC in partnership with the University of Connecticut, nearly 60% of LGBTQ+ teens have experienced bullying at school due to their sexuality or gender identity. A third of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state houses last year were attacks on any form of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the classroom, with a disproportionate impact on transgender youth.

While a fringe, right-wing minority in this country is fixated on creating barriers to learning, teachers and families are pushing back, wanting to expand their support for LGBTQ+ youth. This is why Welcoming Schools is on the ground in local communities supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. We’ve reached a record number of students this year – 750,000 – with the tools to ensure every kid can chase their dreams and find acceptance for who they are in the classroom. The urgency of this work cannot be overstated. We’ll continue showing up for the wellbeing of our LGBTQ+ kids and their families – they are not alone."

Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign

Prior to participating in Welcoming Schools training, less than half (42%) of educators expressed confidence in their ability to support LGBTQ+ students. However, after completing the program, an impressive 89% of educators reported high levels of confidence in their knowledge and skills to create safe and inclusive environments for all students.

Amidst challenges to LGBTQ+ inclusion in education, Welcoming Schools has remained steadfast in its commitment to empowering educators and creating affirming spaces for students. In our 16th year, our program is more robust than ever before. This work across local school districts is crucial to the success of our kids in school, especially as we’ve seen and heard from families who are uprooting their lives and moving states just to find more accepting, inclusive environments. Our 2024 annual report showcases the tremendous impact of our trainings and resources in fostering environments where all students can thrive."

Cheryl Greene, Sr. Director of the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program

This year, the top three most requested trainings were:

  • Creating Gender Inclusive Schools
    • Provides guidance on developing a framework for creating a gender inclusive school. Educators gain the skills and knowledge to be able to respond to challenging questions related to gender.

  • Embracing All Families
    • Emphasizes the importance of recognizing and embracing family diversity in policies and practices. Educators gain the skills to answer questions from students and families about the importance of welcoming all families into their school community.

  • Preventing Bias-Based Bullying
    • Emphasizes the critical need to proactively address behavior that can lead to bullying and strategies to foster ally behavior among students, staff and other adults.

To access Welcoming Schools’ free resources, visit www.welcomingschools.org/resources.

To read the full Welcoming Schools annual report, click here. To access the report in Spanish, click here. For more information on the Welcoming Schools program, visit WelcomingSchools.org.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people. Through its programs, the HRC Foundation seeks to make transformational change in the everyday lives of LGBTQ+ people, shedding light on inequity and deepening the public’s understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, with a clear focus on advancing transgender and racial justice. Its work has transformed the landscape for more than 15 million workers, 11 million students, 1 million clients in the adoption and foster care system and so much more. The HRC Foundation provides direct consultation and technical assistance to institutions and communities, driving the advancement of inclusive policies and practices; it builds the capacity of future leaders and allies through fellowship and training programs; and, with the firm belief that we are stronger working together, it forges partnerships with advocates in the U.S. and around the globe to increase our impact and shape the future of our work.

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