Kahn says Thomason hired in response to interest from Texas activists, educators

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor [email protected]

Officials with the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools program have announced the hiring of an education coordinator to work advocates and school officials in Texas to introduce the program’s anti-bullying campaign in elementary schools here. Ellen Kahn, director of HRC’s Family Project, announced the move during an event Friday, Dec. 3, for major donors to HRC from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Welcoming Schools, Kahn explained, is “an LGBT-inclusive approach to addressing family diversity, gender stereotyping and name-calling in K-5 learning environments.”

It is, she added, “one of the few elementary school programs that doesn’t leave out LGBT issues” in addressing diversity.

Kahn said HRC has hired Rhonda Thomason to help introduce the program to Texas schools. Thomason, based in Alabama, previously worked on diversity issues with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and has worked on diversity issues “throughout the South and Southeast, including in Texas,” Kahn said.

She said Thomason will begin “contacting people and setting up initial meetings” shortly after the first of the year.

“We chose [Thomason] because she had the particular skill set and experiences that are essential in implementing programs like Welcoming Schools,” Kahn said. “She has the depth of experience we were looking for.”

Thomason’s first step, Kahn said, will be to find local activists who have already been working with local school officials “to be the conduits” between her and the schools.

“There has already been a lot of interest in the Welcoming Schools program from advocates and school officials in Texas. We had been asked by our supporters there, especially in Dallas and Fort Worth and Houston, for help in addressing bullying in the schools there,” Kahn said, explaining why HRC chose to send someone to Texas.

For now, she added, Thomason and HRC are “in the exploratory stage, trying to follow up with those who have already expressed an interest in the Welcoming Schools program.” But, Kahn said, she hopes to see Texas schools begin implementing the program soon.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.