By Ryan Collett
Welcoming Schools tries to prevent the bullying of LGBT children in elementary schools. It released a training video for school districts, which features kindergarteners talking about homosexuality. The video offers teachers and school administrators ways to promote tolerance in the classroom.
In the video, titled “What Do You Know,” children from ages six to twelve speak out about bullying — some speaking from firsthand experience as victims and others as bystanders.
In the film, children explain their understanding of the word “gay” and what it actually means to be gay. “Sometimes people at my school call each other gay or something like that when they’re angry at someone,” says a young girl in the video. Another student says, “There’s a boy teasing me because I have gay dads.”
Students in the video also talk about attempts their teachers have made to address LGBT topics. One student remembers, “The teacher said stuff like, ‘Do you know what it means to be gay? Is it a bad thing to be gay?’”
A young girl says, “I wish more teachers could elaborate on it and talk about it more instead of two sentences and then dismiss the subject.”
In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, Welcoming Schools was created in response to parents and educators looking to meet the needs of under-represented minority families. The organization publishes material for schools with three primary emphases in mind: embracing family diversity, avoiding gender stereotyping, and ending bullying and name-calling.
After successful pilot programs throughout the US, Welcoming Schools looks to broaden its outreach and distribute more classroom guides that encourage youth to embrace equality and tolerance and create a learning environment where young minds can flourish regardless of differences.
Kim Westheimer, director of Welcoming Schools says, “It’s exciting because of the variety of the types of schools using the program.” She explains that schools from New York to California — and even smaller schools that wouldn’t normally be perceived as welcoming to an LGBT-inclusive approach — are seeing positive results from the materials.
Avoiding the development of misplaced attitudes and stereotypes in young children is one of the most rewarding results, says Westheimer. “I feel like an education that helps students develop respect for others and feel respect for their own families has a tremendous power.”