California school district investigating teacher’s TikTok about students saying pledge to pride flag

School officials say the teacher has been removed from the classroom while the incident is probed.

California school district investigating teacher’s TikTok about students saying pledge to pride flag

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District has removed a teacher from the classroom while it investigates a posting of a video on social media in which she is heard saying she told students they could pledge allegiance to an LGBTQ pride flag, since she’d removed the American flag from her room.

In response to a reporter’s inquiry, Newport-Mesa district spokeswoman Annette Franco said in an email, “I assure you that we take matters like this seriously and are taking action to address it.

“Showing respect for our nation’s flag is a value that we instill in our students and an expectation of our employees,” she said. “The teacher is no longer in the classroom. We follow due process and our investigation continues.”

  • A sign, American flags and a few LGBTQ pride flags are placed around the sign for Back Bay High School and Monte Vista High School in Newport Beach, CA on Monday, August 30, 2021. The two schools share a campus. The Newport Mesa Unified School District removed a teacher from the classroom while it investigates a video she reportedly posted saying students could pledge allegiance to a pride flag, since she’d removed the American flag from her classroom. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • American flags and a few LGBTQ pride flags are placed around the sign for Back Bay High School and Monte Vista High School in Newport Beach, CA on Monday, August 30, 2021. The two schools share a campus. The Newport Mesa Unified School District removed a teacher from the classroom while it investigates a video she reportedly posted saying students could pledge allegiance to a pride flag, since she’d removed the American flag from her classroom. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • American flags and a few LGBTQ pride flags are placed around the sign for Back Bay High School and Monte Vista High School in Newport Beach, CA on Monday, August 30, 2021. The two schools share a campus. The Newport Mesa Unified School District removed a teacher from the classroom while it investigates a video she reportedly posted saying students could pledge allegiance to a pride flag, since she’d removed the American flag from her classroom. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The district has not publicly named the teacher, but numerous news stories and social media postings indicate she works at Back Bay High School, which is combined on a campus with Monte Vista High, serving   continuation and independent study students. Phone and email messages left for the teacher named by some media sources were not returned Monday.

In the nearly 1-minute video reportedly posted to TikTok on Friday, the woman describes how she allows her students to decide whether to participate in the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and that her class opted to stand for the observance, but not say the pledge.

She explains that she took down the American flag in her room while students were learning remotely (“because it made me uncomfortable,” she whispers as an aside) and was unable to find it for the new school year. One student said it was strange to have no flag to face toward, she says, so she pointed out there is a flag in the room. Then she laughs and points her phone’s camera toward a rainbow LGBTQ flag on the wall, saying the student looked around and asked, “Oh, that one?”

According to district policies, each campus must display the U.S. flag at the school entrance or on the grounds, and each school must hold daily “patriotic exercises” including the Pledge of Allegiance, but “individuals may choose not to participate in the flag salute for personal reasons.”

Newport-Mesa school board President Karen Yelsey said Monday that she was “very disappointed, and I was outraged when I saw this, because it bothers me personally,” particularly while the nation is still mourning 13 military service members killed last week in Afghanistan.

The district is taking the issue seriously and following due process as it investigates, Yelsey said. She added that aside from the teacher’s message in the video, which many people found upsetting, “I think most people know, rational people know, they should be mindful of what they put on social media.”