Police stepped in to split up protesters in a tense scene outside a North Hollywood elementary school Friday morning as more than 100 parents rallied against a Pride Day assembly, bringing to a head weeks of turmoil that saw a transgender teacher’s LGBTQ+ Pride flag burned.
Parents held up signs outside Saticoy Elementary School with messages that included “No pride in grooming,” “Parental choice matters” and “Leave our kids alone.” Across the street, about 100 people had gathered for a counterprotest in support of LGBTQ+ rights and education.
Karine, 40, waved a small U.S. flag as she joined the protesting parents. The woman, who asked that her last name be withheld over fears that her Saticoy third-grader would be bullied, said she was tired “of the propaganda” and noted that her child had brought home rainbow-colored stickers and other items from school last week.
“I didn’t come from Armenia for this,” she said of education about LGBTQ+ people. “I came for freedom and for my children to learn about math and education, not about this. I might go back home.”
At one point, Karine and others protesting against LGBTQ+ education crossed the street to the front of the school, where they clashed with counterprotesters and police, who attempted to divide the groups.
Renato Lira, director of the San Fernando Valley LGBTQ Center in Van Nuys, found himself at the center of the scrum. He yelled at protesting parents “to get educated” and grabbed counterprotesters on his side away from potential fights.
“For the other side, they need education,” Lira said of the parents group. “They needed to talk to actual gay people and parents.”
Tabitha Davis, 44, a parent educator in the Burbank Unified School District, arrived around 8 a.m. draped in a transgender pride flag, wearing rainbow-colored glasses and a sweater that said “You deserve to be happy.”
Davis is the mother of a trans child at an L.A. Unified school she did not want to identify. She felt compelled to have her voice heard and “support families who are being harassed,” Davis said.
“I have been fighting to feel safe,” she said. “Now, I feel like it’s my position and my place to fight for others to feel safe.”
The group behind Friday’s protest, called Saticoy Elementary Parents, claimed in an Instagram post Thursday that they weren’t against LGBTQ+ people.
“We want to reiterate that our protest is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community,” the group wrote. “We recognize the importance of promoting equality and acceptance for all individuals.”
The group, however, had set its sights on Friday’s Gay Pride and Rainbow Day assembly and urged other parents to keep their children home that day.
“Keep your kids home and innocent,” a flier posted by the group said. “Videos will be shown to the students including one where it says, ‘some kids have 2 mommies, some have 2 daddies.’ This has caused outrage among parents.”
A transgender teacher at the school discovered May 22 that a Pride flag displayed in a flower pot had been burned and the pot broken. Los Angeles police confirmed the vandalism was being investigated, and Saticoy Elementary told parents the act occurred during a break-in over the prior weekend.
The Los Angeles Police Department stationed officers at the school Friday morning to “support our LAUSD partners and facilitate a peaceful and lawful exercise of constitutional rights,” the department said.
The Los Angeles Unified School District “remains committed to maintaining a safe, inclusive and supportive environment for all students,” it said in a statement.
The district confirmed that the Los Angeles School Police Department was providing additional patrols around campus for the safety of students and staff members.