In 2022, the “It Gets Better Project” allowed schools to “apply for up to $10,000 in grant funding to support school-based projects empowering LGBTQ+ students.” The project was called “50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices.” The organization specifically pointed out that “grant funding” even went to schools in “traditionally conservative areas.” The DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach Public Charter School is a school that applied for a grant and received a full $10,000. The “It Gets Better Project” stated:
We are so excited to finally be able to announce all of the grant recipients, with each school receiving the full $10,000 in funding. Fifty grants are being awarded in 40 states plus Washington D.C., including many traditionally conservative areas. Submissions were received from a wide range of small rural towns, average-sized suburbs, and large urban cities.
The organization claimed that these grants were made available to schools thanks to the “generous support of American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. (AEO) through American Eagle and Aerie customer donations from all 50 states via their Real Rewards loyalty program, as well as in-store pin-pad promotion during Pride Month 2021.” In reference to the DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach Public Charter School, the “It Gets Better Project” explained how the grant money will be used:
This project will help parents understand the importance of advocating for LGBTQ+ students in schools. By centering Native Hawaiian knowledge and education around māhū identity (third gender identity), this project will bridge conversations related to cultural practices and Western LGBTQ+ topics and language.
The “It Gets Better Project” is an organization that promotes LGBTQ issues to children. The organization states that its mission is “to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth around the globe.” This includes through “storytelling and media.” The organization explains: “We work in all forms of media to bring messages of hope to LGBTQ+ youth, spark conversations about the challenges they confront, and inform and positively influence their sexual orientation and gender identity journey.”
The “It Gets Better Project” links to an article that tells more about the school receiving the $10,000 grant. KHON2 reports that the topics of “gender identity and sexual orientation” will be added to the school’s curriculum in the 2022-2023 school year. The news outlet further reports that the grant will be used to establish a program called “A Place in the Middle – Mahu Education for Parents.” The school’s Chief Student Success Officer Amber Leon Guerrero appears to explain that this program will help parents embrace LGBTQ issues:
The hope and idea is to really create a community with our parent leaders to embrace, to value and like Jaylen was saying to love. And how do you do that? You go to do it with each other — you got to do that with asking questions.
KHON2 describes the program as a “safe space” to start conversations with parents about LGBTQ issues. The news outlet reports: “The school plans to establish the program this coming school year, and the curriculum is still being developed.”
On October 20, 2020, the school’s “Academic Leadership Consultant” Ryan Mandado participated in a “Rainbow Town Hall” hosted by the organization known as the “Hawai`i LGBT Legacy Foundation.” The name of the town hall was “Find the Way: Facilitating LGBTQIA+ Conversations in Education.” In the town hall, Ryan Mandado introduces himself with his pronouns “he/him.” Ryan Mandado explains that he supports Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) clubs and supports training teachers on LGBTQ issues. [Time Stamp: 16:10] In the video, he also appears to support teaching gay students how to have sexual intercourse. [Time Stamp: 23:40] He states:
My second year teaching, I had a student who knew that I was gay. He said, “Mister, how do gay people have sex?” I just stood there. And I was like, “woah.” This student also identified as gay. So, in that moment, I was like: One, there are not particular resources that I can reach out to right now to figure out how to facilitate this conversation. Two, you have to balance between what information is quote, unquote objective versus subjective in this conversation related to sexual health. And three, I kind of felt disappointed in myself as a gay teacher not being able to answer this question for gay students.
“Chief Student Success Officer” Amber Leon Guerrero and Ryan Mandado are listed on the website of the organization “The Equity Lab” as fellows. On her profile for the organization, Amber Leon Guerrero explains: “Racial equity and social justice are the key components in raising consciousness in our communities and island.” Ryan Mandado explains on his profile: “Racial equity and social justice work is important because I’m responsible for educating the future leaders of Hawai‘i—Native Hawaiian students.”
The homepage for “The Equity Lab” explains that the organization “seeks to disrupt racial and ethnic inequity by engaging organizations in issues of race, equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI).” The organization further states that “our signature fellowships and long-term engagements help individuals and organizations to develop a deep understanding of their own identities and the historical and cultural contexts in which we all operate.”
Despite receiving $10,000 to push LGBTQ issues, the DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach Public Charter School’s website does not appear to reference any LGBTQ policies, events, or material for parents to see. Many parents may not know about the school’s LGBTQ plans taking place at all.