The school board in Lynchburg, Virginia has rejected a $10,000 grant from the It Gets Better Foundation, with one resident in the ruby-red metropolis calling the award a Trojan horse to lure school children into a “wicked lifestyle.”
“Let me be very clear,” said one grandparent and guardian of a district student. “The LBGTQ agenda in schools is about indoctrination and grooming our children into an evil and wicked lifestyle, all while circumventing the rights and responsibilities of parents.”
15-year-old Keely Meadows has been speaking out against anti-trans policies at school board meetings for over six months.
The grant was rejected by board members in a 7-2 vote.
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Lynchburg is home to evangelical Liberty University, founded by notorious right-wing homophobe Jerry Falwell.
The It Gets Better Foundation, co-founded by sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, awarded the grant to students at a Lynchburg area high school Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club to create a “quiet room” at the school.
Many schools in the district “already have such rooms, and they have been shown to promote student self-regulation and are correlated to better student outcomes,” E.C. Glass Principal Daniel Rule told the board at its October 24 meeting, reported by The News & Advance.
The safe space would include flexible seating, interactive sensory devices, non-intrusive lighting, and white noise machines. It would be open to all students.
“Many students, including myself, struggle with mental health,” junior Lindley Crosby told the board. “School can be overwhelming just by itself, but a lot has happened in the last three or four years, what with the uncertainty of COVID along with the many lockdowns and how those have affected students.”
“We want to provide this safe room so they have somewhere to go and breathe for a second.”
But a majority of board members were repelled by a potential association with the LGBTQ+ organization.
Member Christian DePaul cited his own research into It Gets Better for rejecting the grant.
“My point is, and there’s other people on the board who have this opinion, I believe, that this is a group I don’t think should be associated with LCS,” DePaul said referring to Lynchburg City Schools.
“I cannot support that project with all the things that I’ve seen on their website. I cannot do it.”
Another board member, Farid Jalil, raised concerns about Savage, who started the project in 2010 to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, while member Randall Trost rejected the “strings attached” to the grant, including signage acknowledging the LGBTQ+ org.
The stated mission of It Gets Better is to “communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The grant was awarded as part of the group’s “50 States 50 Grants 5,000 Voices” program.
Ultimately, the board agreed that the installation of a “quiet room” had merit and voted to find funds within its budget to match the grant without the organization’s participation.
“The kids need it. Let’s get it done and move on,” said Board Chair Atul Gupta.