A North Hollywood elementary school already dealing with parental protests over an upcoming Pride assembly was facing further turmoil after a transgender teacher's Pride flag was burned by a campus intruder, police and sources said.
The angst at Saticoy Elementary School has ratcheted up since parents created an Instagram account on May 16 protesting the school's Pride month assembly, during which administrators planned to talk about families with gay parents. Some parents planned to keep their children home, and others posted furiously about teaching "sexuality" in schools.
On May 22, a full-time teacher at the school who is transgender discovered a Pride flag that had been displayed in a flower pot was burned and the pot had been broken.
Los Angeles police confirmed they were investigating the vandalism, which they said occurred over the previous weekend.
The school reached out to parents about the incident.
"We experienced a break-in over the weekend at Saticoy Elementary that resulted in vandalism and is being investigated as a hate-motivated incident," the school said. "We are cooperating with law enforcement. This is a reminder that we rely on our entire school community to keep our school safe and secure by reporting any suspicious activity on campus after hours. If you see something, say something."
Although the teacher, a transgender man, initially remained at the school, he since has been removed amid safety concerns by the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to a source who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the situation.
After the burning of the teacher's Pride flag, his image was removed from the school's website over concerns for his safety. However, photos of the teacher — both before and after his transition — were posted on conservative Instagram pages mainly used by parents opposed to Saticoy's Pride assembly.
"Here's the special ed/3rd grade trans teacher (first pic as female, later male) at Saticoy Elementary who has made it a point to send message to [Armenian] kids about [Pride]," the post said.
One person commented they knew for a long time that the teacher was transgender.
"Never did it bother anyone nor do we know of anyone making this person feel hated or unwanted. He has now decided to stir things up and make his private sexual business our kids," the person wrote, without citing any evidence.
Others called the teacher "mentally ill," while one commented, "Wouldn't parents be uncomfortable with a trans person teaching their children to begin with?!"
"We’re in an atmosphere especially here in the United States with school shootings where, no, I don't feel safe," a teacher from Saticoy who requested anonymity told The Times. "I don't think any of our teachers feel safe. And a lot of parents don’t feel safe about their children either."
The school has been dealing with other internal problems related to LGBTQ+ issues besides the burning of the Pride flag.
On May 19, three days after the Instagram account @saticoyelementaryparents was created, parents pulled their children from a classroom that was being taught by a transgender substitute teacher, according to three school sources who spoke with The Times. The substitute had worked at the school before and never had any problems, according to a teacher who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation from parents or the district.
"It was awful," said another staff member. "I get that people have freedom of speech and the ability to believe and have their own opinions, but when it directly results in affecting the livelihood of another person, it’s unconscionable."
The LAUSD would not confirm the incident.
"Due to confidentiality laws, we are unable to address student and personnel matters," the district said in a statement. "Please be assured that Los Angeles Unified remains committed to providing a learning and working environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying."
The incidents at Saticoy Elementary School come in a charged political climate, where anti-trans rhetoric has become more common across the country as trans visibility has increased.
The parent protests are part of a national conservative movement against discussing sexuality in grade school, which some activists say is a smokescreen for anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.
"I think it’s definitely a nationwide conservative right trend. The anti-woke stuff. You see it all the time," one Saticoy teacher said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.