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What is a Welcoming School?

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This week, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard several hours of testimony on SB6 which has come to be known as the “Bathroom Bill”. There were over 400 registered to give testimony on the bill which lasted into the early morning hours of Wednesday morning. After hearing all of the testimony, the bill passed out of committee and will be heard on the Senate floor on Monday, March 13th.

During the testimony, there were several mentions of a program called “Welcoming Schools” in which little information was given in regards to what the program is. Lone Star Voice has researched the program and the following is what was discovered.

Straight from’s home page:

“Welcoming Schools, a project of the HRC Foundation, is a comprehensive approach to improving school climate in elementary school environments with training, resources, and lessons to help schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.”

This curriculum was created by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and is available to schools across the state. Members of the Welcoming Schools’ program staff go into participating ISDs and train the faculty in these schools. The Welcoming Schools Expert Trainer, Tarah Fleming, was reportedly drawn to the job because she wanted to be a “change agent” and “has over 25 years of experience internationally, and locally as an educator and facilitator on issues of social justice, equity and inclusion, anti-bias education and the dynamics of power and privilege.”

The program focuses on teaching elementary aged students about gay, lesbian, and transgender students with whom they are classmates. Any participating school is supposed to be entirely inclusive and makes it clear that all participants must not only be inclusive and free from bias, but must also be supportive of “transgender and non-binary students”. Their website provides a variety of resources for advancing this agenda, including videos, lesson plans, read-aloud books, and even resources for answering “challenging questions”.

In Texas, Austin ISD has become a Welcoming School and the curriculum is implemented in all of their campuses. Presumably as part of their Welcoming Schools implementation, they have a Social and Emotional Learning department to enforce or implant the “Respect for All” policy.  According to their website, that includes an anti-bullying initiative and an Austin ISD Pride Week.

Although it has not been implemented throughout the district, Houston’s Garden Oaks Montessori School received the Welcoming School seal of excellence award for their participation.

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