Something I never thought I’d see in Alabama has happened. The Magic City Acceptance Academy opened its doors to 200-plus students on its Homewood (a suburb of Birmingham) campus. The public charter school’s mission statement pretty much says it all: “The Magic City Acceptance Academy facilitates a community in which all learners are empowered to embrace education, achieve individual success, and take ownership of their future in a safe, LGBTQ-affirming learning environment.”
The school had faced some issues with getting a city charter. Birmingham City Schools refused to allow the school in their district. Instead, Homewood granted them the charter to build the school in their city. The school welcomed its first students on Aug. 31. And while an LGBTQ-affirming learning environment is part of its mission statement, MCAA welcomes all students in grades 6-12.
“All is good up on the hill,” said principal Michael Wilson, Ph.D. “We’re just glad our students are feeling they’re safe themselves. In a couple of days, no telling how much they are going to open up.” Wilson continues saying, “It’s not all about sexuality and gender. We have kids who have been bullied for other reasons, and they just wanted a new start, and that’s why they’re here. We’ve got some kids that their parents felt their special needs weren’t being met, and they brought them to us. We’re working with our special needs teacher and looking at their educational plans to make sure we meet all their needs.” Growing up in Alabama and later teaching there, I’ve known and seen the bullying firsthand that comes with being a kid who others consider not “normal.” It’s so wonderful to see that these kids will hopefully experience a much better atmosphere for their education.
Sadly, a school of this type in Alabama requires extra security. The administrators know that there people out there who would feel such a progressive middle school and high school had no right to exist. Wilson said they would be “diligent about protecting” their space and their building. Wilson further said, “It took a lot for us to earn the right to be here, and we’re not about to give that away to somebody with an agenda that is just opposite of ours. We have as much right to exist as they do, especially when it comes to meeting the needs of children. Of students. They deserve the right to feel safe in a learning space that values them as kids and as students, and that’s what we’re determined to provide, and with all the resources other students have.” It also doesn’t hurt that the Homewood Police Department is directly across the street.
Rarely do I hear uplifting stories out of the state where I grew up, but it’s a wonderful experience when it happens. I wish MCAA and their students the best in their endeavors. I usually don’t favor charter schools because they give public funds to private schools and many of them are not of the quality they should be, but when it comes to schools like MCAA, I am all for the charter school system. These kids would not have had the opportunity to study in an affirming environment where they can feel safe if they were attending public school in Alabama. The one drawback is that admittance to the school is based on a lottery system, and there does seem to be more demand than what the school can accommodate. Also, many kids are not out and therefore cannot ask their parents to send them to MCAA. These are probably the same kids who get bullied and are too afraid to tell their parents or teachers about it.