HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program Reaches 750,000 Students

May 30, 2024

HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program Reaches 750,000 Students, Combats Anti-LGBTQ+ Bullying Amid Rising School Hate Crimes

May 30, 2024
Staff writer

The Welcoming Schools program, an initiative by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), has reached a new milestone by impacting over 750,000 students through its anti-bullying efforts. This program is dedicated to creating supportive educational environments for LGBTQ+ students by providing necessary tools and training to pre-K-12 school communities. Amid the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and increased hate crimes in schools, the relevance and urgency of such programs have never been clearer.

Recent data reveals a worrying increase in hate crimes and bullying incidents in schools, with reports more than doubling nationwide between 2015 to 2019 and 2021 to 2022. This rise correlates with the sharp spike in anti-LGBTQ+ bills, many of which target transgender and non-binary students, further marginalizing this vulnerable group. The Welcoming Schools initiative aims to counteract these negative trends by educating and empowering school staff to foster a more inclusive and safe environment for all students.

In the fiscal year 2024, Welcoming Schools conducted 180 training sessions for 13,000 educators across the country. These training sessions are crucial as they equip educators with the skills and knowledge to support LGBTQ+ students effectively. Feedback from these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive; prior to the training, less than half of the educators felt confident in their ability to support LGBTQ+ students. Post-training, this number soared to 89%, demonstrating the effectiveness of the program in boosting educator confidence and competence.

The increase in school-based hate crimes and the legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ inclusion have made the support from programs like Welcoming Schools more critical than ever. Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign, emphasized the importance of continuing these efforts despite the challenges. “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,” Robinson stated. She highlighted the significant impact of reaching a record number of students this year, underscoring the program’s role in ensuring every student can pursue their dreams and receive acceptance in their educational journey.

Cheryl Greene, Sr. Director of the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program, noted that the initiative is more robust than ever in its 16th year. “Amidst challenges to LGBTQ+ inclusion in education, Welcoming Schools has remained steadfast in its commitment to empowering educators and creating affirming spaces for students,” Greene said. She also pointed out the heartening trend of families moving to more accepting states to find safe educational environments for their children, illustrating the program’s vital role in these transitions.

The top three trainings requested this year included Creating Gender-Inclusive Schools, Embracing All Families, and Preventing Bias-Based Bullying. These sessions highlight the program’s comprehensive approach to tackling various aspects of school culture that can impact LGBTQ+ students. From developing gender-inclusive policies to embracing diverse family structures and actively preventing bullying, Welcoming Schools is at the forefront of creating educational spaces where every student can thrive.

To access Welcoming Schools’ free resources, click here.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.