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How one HISD principal created a ‘welcoming’ school

2014 May 8
by HISD Communications

You can view diversity as a liability, or you can view it as an asset. At HISD, we choose the positive approach. In a shrinking world, an important part of our children’s educational experience is their exposure to youngsters and families with varying socioeconomic backgrounds, from far-reaching parts of the world, and to those who may have lifestyles and beliefs different from their own.

Nothing replaces getting to know someone from a neighborhood across town, from a war-torn country, with a different language or religion, whose family doesn’t look like their own, to give a child the ability to move freely – and graciously – in a complex, diverse city and world.

Another important part of children’s understanding and acceptance is the examples adults set. Bullying and intolerance doesn’t just happen with youngsters, as Garden Oaks Montessori Principal Lindsey Pollock can tell you.

Last year, some of her parents approached her, concerned about other families at the school “that looked different than everybody else.”  Dr. Pollock listened politely, and then did something about it.

She brought in a program from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, called Welcoming Schools, that approaches bullying and intolerance in a sweeping way that takes into account lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families. The aim is to create a climate that makes the school a safe place for every type of family – and to have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of unkind behavior.

So successful is the program at Garden Oaks that the school is one of only 10 campuses nationwide to be honored with the Seal of Excellence from the national organization. Through the program, Dr. Pollock has made Garden Oaks a place that embraces everyone, instead of merely tolerating them – “making sure that everybody has a place at the table.”

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