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 Ida B. Wells APAC High School Program 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 Ida B. Wells APAC High School Program, the “It Gets Better Project” stated: “This project will fund the design of a set of murals based on inclusion and unity highlighting LGBTQ+ history, especially queer black history.“
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 “Ida B. Wells APAC High School Program” is part of Ida B. Wells APAC Elementary School. The school’s website explains: “Wells APAC serves students in grades 4 and 5 in the academic and performing arts areas. It also serves students in grades 6-12 in the performance art area.” The school’s website also explains that “students receive either an accelerated academic program and/or a specialized intensive exposure to an art field (dance, music, theatre arts, and visual arts).”
The school’s district is Jackson Public Schools. On February 8, 2022, the Board of Trustees appeared to update the school district’s “Instructional Goals” policy to include implementing LGBTQ themes into the curriculum. This policy includes several categories of goals for the district’s “program of instruction.” One category of goals is listed as “Social and Civic Goals.” One goal appears to reference students understanding LGBTQ themes: “Understanding of how members of a family function within different family patterns.” The following are the goals in the “Social and Civic” category:
- Understanding and appreciation of cultures and beliefs different one’s own.
- Interpersonal understanding and self-realization.
- Understanding of how members of a family function within different family patterns.
- Acquiring knowledge of various value systems and the influence on an individual and society.
- Ability to assess realistically, and live in accordance with personal potential, strengths, and limitations.
- Development of productive and satisfying relationships with others based on respect, trust, cooperation and caring.
- Knowledge of the history and basic workings of government, economics, politics, and social systems.
- Development of a commitment to be civic-minded and socially responsible in one’s endeavors
The school district has a strategic plan called “Excellence for All” for 2019-2024. This plan emphasizes the idea of “equity.” When discussing the “core values” of the school district, the strategic plan specifically mentions “equity.” The strategic plan also has a commitment to “ensuring a culturally and socially relevant approach to instruction.” The term “culturally relevant” is often used to describe a method of teaching that includes the race and ethnicity of students as part of the lessons taught in classrooms.
The school district also has an “Optimizing for Equity” program that started in the 2020-2021 school year. A presentation shows that a major component of this plan is reorganizing school buildings in a perceived manner to optimize for equity. This plan includes closing and merging schools together.