During a Pride Month assembly at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood this morning, conservative parents and members of the LGBTQ+ community squared off on opposite sides of Ethel Avenue right outside of the school.
There was no meeting of the minds.
A shoulder-to-shoulder line of LAPD and school police positioned themselves in between the two groups who engaged in loud shouting matches and held opposing protest signs. Many stood firmly, waving the Pride flag.
Objections were first raised after the school announced their plans to hold today’s Rainbow Day Assembly and as part of their program, read from “The Great Big Book of Families.” This book includes examples of diverse families, including families who have two mothers.
Conservative parents immediately reacted, accusing the school of “grooming” their elementary school children and questioning why an LGBTQ+ education was being introduced.
The controversy caught the attention of others outside of the valley community, with many who traveled from other areas of LA County to participate in today’s pro and con demonstration.
LGBTQ+ allies waved signs that read “Hate is not a family value” and “Love beats hate, leave our trans kids alone.”
The Pride school assembly opponents wore T-shirts that read, “Leave our kids alone,” and held signs reading “Parental choice matters” and “No pride in grooming.”
“I’m here because I truly believe that they shouldn’t be teaching this in school,” said Paola who asked that her last name not be used.
“LAUSD has no say on my child. They need to be teaching math, history and science. Why do they want to shove this down our throats? Why? Why can’t they stick to teaching? If they want to teach their kids what they believe, that’s fine. But I want to teach my child what I believe, and they shouldn’t be teaching this in schools.”
Proponents, meanwhile, expressed their support for the assembly and educating young students about LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“I drove an hour to help keep our kids safe going to school and to support these teachers who are devoted to their kids,” said Sarah from West Los Angeles, who also opted not to provide her last name.
“It’s absurd to imagine that they are in some way [‘grooming kids’] by telling them about two mommies in that household for crying out loud. … I have children, I’m straight, but I think it’s absurd that people are obsessing over this.”
As the number of demonstrators grew on both sides, so did the sense of hostility towards the other side.
While opponents maintained they aren’t against the LGBTQ+ community, but against the addition of an LGBTQ+ educational component for their children. In the same breath, however, they emphasized they want the “LGBT parade” away from their kids and to “Keep the trans out of schools.”
“[I’m here] to support families and kids and to be a witness that love always wins,” said Alfredo Feregrino, associate rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. “We live in a country that is so divided and we just have to love each other. … There’s different denominations of people that use the Bible and God to inject hate. For me, my God is love itself.”
Faith leaders of all denominations came out to show their support of the assembly. Specifically, those from the Los Angeles Queer Interfaith Clergy Council, who wanted opponents to know that this is not what they stand for.
Jerrell Walls, reverend and founder of Christ Chapel of the Valley, shared his sentiments of love. He said he was at the protest, “Just to show support and have a peaceful presence.” He hopes the protest would help people become “Aware that there are two sides to this issue, they don’t have to agree with our side, but they shouldn’t impose their beliefs on everyone else.” But above all, he wants everyone to know that “God’s love, grace and acceptance. That is what’s important.”
The climate at the school has become tense — increasing after anonymous threats were made to a transgender teacher employed by the school.
Flyers were also distributed to encourage parents to boycott the school assembly and keep their children home.
A small pride flag that was in a flowerpot outside of the transgender teacher’s classroom was burned which increased concern from the LGBTQ+ community.
LAUSD provided the following statement: “Los Angeles Unified remains committed to maintaining a safe, inclusive and supportive environment for all students. We are also committed to ensuring diversity and inclusivity, in accordance with California’s nondiscrimination laws, so that all students feel empowered to realize their greatest potential. This includes the recognition of the diverse communities that we serve.
The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol contacted Saticoy Elementary for comment, but the school did not respond by press time.
Diana Martinez contributed to this article.