By Maria Luisa Torres
San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol
Over 50 people gathered at the corner of Lindley Avenue and Nordhoff Street in Northridge waving American flags and chanting “Leave our kids alone!” during a midday rally they called “Stop the War on Children.”
That war, according to members of conservative groups at the Oct. 21 rally, is what they believe to be “indoctrination” of students after the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution encouraging all district schools to incorporate lessons on the LGBTQ+ community into their curriculum.
Similar rallies were held the same day in more than 20 U.S. cities – eight in California alone, including in Orange, San Diego and outside the residence of Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento.
As the Northridge group walked down Nordhoff they chanted, “Our kids, our choice” and “For parental rights we must fight.” They held up signs and banners that read “Parental rights matter,” “Protect children from public schools” and even “F— Gavin Newsom.” They gathered at Dearborn Park to continue the rally.
Across the street from where the rally started, about half a dozen people held a counter-demonstration, waving a pride flag and held signs with entirely different messages that read: “Leave Queer kids alone” and “Support Trans kids.”
After learning about the rally on Instagram, Troy and Mac (who declined to provide their last names, citing concerns about “being doxxed and harassed online”) said they showed up to express support for LGBTQ+ kids.
“I wanted to be a voice for the other side, representing my community,” Mac told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol.
This rally was a smaller version of a previous protest and counter protest during Pride month last June at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood. Members of the same parent groups protested a reading at the school’s assembly of “The Great Big Book of Families,” which describes diverse families and includes a reference to same-sex parents.
Jackie Goldberg, who was the LAUSD Board President at the time, introduced the LGBTQ+ resolution for school curriculum. Following the June protest Goldberg said she believes that when young people in the LGBTQ+ community hear “yelling and screaming” about them during demonstrations “it [makes] them afraid.”
Also in response to the Saticoy Elementary protest, LAUSD released a statement that read in part: “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.”
However, Jessica Enos, co-organizer for the Northridge rally, said she believes that required references to LGBTQ+ individuals or lifestyles are tantamount to “sexualizing” and “grooming” children, and don’t belong in any schools.
“Our main concern is parental rights and it starts in our schools,” said Enos, who is a resident of Palmdale and is the group leader for Antelope Valley Parents for Education. Although she homeschools her three children via a local public charter school, Enos said she wants to “stand up for the rights of all parents” who have to rely on public schools.
“We believe every parent should have the right to teach and raise their child however they see fit, within the parameters of not harming the child,” she said. “They should be able to teach them their own ideologies and their own beliefs and have that respected.”
But, she claimed, “Kids are being confused because they’re being told to question their identity.”
Troy and Mac both fervently disagree with Enos and others holding the position that allowing school curriculum that acknowledges the existence of LGBTQ+ persons “is somehow going to influence them to become that.”
“I think there’s this fear that learning that some people are gay is gonna rub off on them, but that’s just not true,” said Troy. “I’ve been groomed to be a heterosexual since I was a child and it didn’t work, because that’s not who I am, and the only thing it did is make me hate who I was.”
Meanwhile, that message from the LGBTQ+ community fell on deaf ears of parents at the Northridge rally. “To all of the Christians who are watching this online: Why aren’t you here?” said Trish Aquino, a wife and mother of two toddlers, addressing the crowd at Dearborn Park, where many were holding up their cell phones to capture the rally. Wearing a T-shirt that said “Bring back God,” Aquino stressed that faith should be at the center of “fighting the war against our children.”
Aquino, a member of the San Fernando Valley Hub of TP USA Faith (an initiative of Turning Point USA), told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol that she plans to homeschool her children, but wants to support those who have kids in public schools.
“We have family and friends who have their kids in the LA Unified School District,” said Aquino, adding that she believes the issue of “grooming” goes far beyond the schools.
“In Target, when you first walked in during Pride Month, there was merchandise promoting pride for all the kids to see,” she said, adding that she wants to urge parents and others – both Christians and non-Christians – to speak out against anyone “teaching our kids what it means to be gay” or non-binary: “Why aren’t you doing something, right here in your own hometown?”
In regard to public school curriculum, Enos and Aquino both said they disagree with any requirements for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, as mandated under the California Healthy Youth Act for sexual health and HIV prevention lessons, for example; and the FAIR Education Act, which requires representations of LGBTQ+ people in history and social studies. While parents can opt their kids out of sexual health lessons, they can’t opt out of history or social studies, said Enos.
New State Laws
Another issue are newly-passed state laws, Enos maintains, including Assembly Bill (AB) 1078, which blocks California school boards from banning books or instructional materials labeled as diverse or inclusive. Last month, Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 665, which will allow children 12 years of age and older who are enrolled in Medi-Cal to receive outpatient mental health services without the consent of their parents (this is already the case for those with private insurance).
Shay Dor from West LA, who attended the Northridge rally, said she is against the new California laws, especially AB 665, which she believes strips parents of fundamental rights.
“I’m here to do what I can, because we need to [support parents] and save the kids from this indoctrination; I’m really scared for them,” said Dor, who has a 6-year-old child. “This is our fight – nobody can fight for us; we are the parents. Nobody’s going to stand for us, except us.”
For Mac, the assertion that supporters of the Stop the War on Children rally “just want to protect kids” is particularly disturbing to hear because Mac’s firsthand experience growing up around people who embraced similar beliefs was extremely hurtful.
“It stunted my personal growth for years. I hated myself for a long time, because I was told all these [negative] things. … It [becomes] embedded in you, and you have to unlearn all those things before you can finally learn to love yourself,” explained Mac. “I would never want someone else to go through that.”