After three unsuccessful tries to seek approval as an LGBTQ focused charter school, the fourth time, during a meeting in which a vote was not on the agenda, was the charm for the Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA).
The commission has previously voted against the school, leading to accusations of bias and bullying on both sides. With the supporters of the school repeatedly accusing those who voted against it of “bias” towards the LGBTQ community and those on the other side saying they were being “bullied” themselves for being against the controversial school, which is outside the typical scope of charter schools.
The school was previously denied on May 12, April 23, and September 10 and by the Birmingham City School board in January.
This time, the day after the presidential election, after taking up an agenda item that would not include a vote, a vote was in fact called and seven of the nine commissioners present voted yes—to approve the school’s application, according to al.com. This will allow the school which will be located in Homewood, Alabama to open in the Fall of 2021.
The charter school has gained attention for its controversial emphasis on LGTBQ youth, but in a new approach during this meeting while seeking approval, the group instead emphasized their plan to use trauma-informed instruction to help students leaning less heavy on their actual mission.
Though Michael Wilson, the principal of MCAA recently said that all kids are welcome at the school, not just LGTBQ youth, he also noted that “We are most likely one of the only schools in the nation to have the statement that we are LGBTQ affirming in our Mission Statement.”
The use of the word affirming has traditionally been reserved for churches and therapists with one therapist defining affirming as an approach, “that embraces a positive view of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) identities and relationships and addresses the negative influences that homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism have on the lives of LGBTQ.” Both versions of the application, the original charter school application for the Magic City Acceptance center, and the amended application submitted in July of 2020 specifically state that it will be a, “LGBTQ-affirming learning environment” for sixth through twelfth grades or students ages 11-18. Going on to state that, “MCAA will provide a 6-12th grade school with curriculum and social programs that embrace the mission and vision of the school.”
Their application also notes their intent to include LGBTQ materials into the learning environment of their school saying, “When polled, only one in five LGBTQ students reported that they were taught positivere/presentations (sic) of LGBTQ people, history, or events in their classes; and more than half (64.8 percent) of students reported that they did not have access to information about LGBTQ-related topics in their school library, through the internet on school computers, or in their textbooks or other assigned readings.”
Alabama law specifically states that public charter schools must accept all students who apply and cannot discriminate for enrollment in the school.
Wilson goes on to describe the school’s mission, stating, “We believe in integrating social and restorative justice themes and values in everything we do.”
The new vote came after MCAA requested the rehearing in an Oct. 8 letter to the commission, arguing that the commission hadn’t provided adequate reason behind their denial at the September meeting. Nash Campbell, the attorney for MCAA, presented their reasoning at a virtual meeting. After a brief executive meeting, the commission agreed to grant the rehearing immediately. Principal Wilson made a short presentation, emphasizing the trauma-informed approach the school would use. After a vote, seven of the nine commissioners present voted yes. Commissioner Marla Green again voted no, and Commissioner Paul Morin abstained from voting. Commissioner Dick Brewbaker was not at the meeting.