Protesters, counter-protesters gather outside NoHo elementary school to protest LGBTQ book reading

Jaysha Patel Image
Friday, June 2, 2023
LGBTQ Pride book reading at NoHo elementary school draws protest
The reading of the book "The Great Big Book of Families" during a Pride Month assembly at a North Hollywood elementary school sparked a sometimes heated confrontation between protesters and counter-protesters outside the school on Friday.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Police had to separate a sometimes heated protest and counter-protest that was taking place outside the Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood Friday, as some protested a Pride Month recognition at the campus.

Classes remained in session throughout the day, even with the ruckus going on outside.

Parents who are opposed to the Pride event that included the reading of the book "The Great Big Book of Families" to students created an Instagram account to express displeasure with the move, calling for other parents to keep their kids home from school on Friday in a form of protest against the planned assembly.

The parents protesting say that the LGBTQ topic is one that should be left for parents to teach rather than having it imposed on kids at school.

But at least one member of the Los Angeles School Board disagreed.

"It's a few pages just talking about the different types of families that exist," said Los Angeles School Board Member Kelly Gonez as she spoke to the media outside the school amidst the protest. "I don't think that there's any credibility to any allegations that this would be inappropriate for students."

Protesters eventually shouted down Gonez as she spoke to the media, ending the media availability early.

The parents' message was on display before they even began gathering Friday. At least two trailers were parked right across the school covered in large signs that read "Leave our kids alone."

Crowds of protesters, as well as counter-protesters, started gathering around 8 a.m. outside the school with Los Angeles police officers nearby.

The crowd remained mostly peaceful, but AIR7 HD was overhead when some individuals appeared to get into a heated argument. Video on the ground showed protesters getting close and yelling at each other outside the school. No major issues were reported.

Ray Jones, a Pride supporter, said the counter-protest was to make sure love was spread.

"Hate's always going to be there and although it is disappointing, there are still people like me who are here to make sure that everything is alright and that our message of love is spread," said Jones.

Dozens of people gathered to protest a Pride assembly at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood on Friday.

Jack Satamian has two children at Saticoy. He's among the group of parents planning to keep his children home on Friday, and believes children should not be taught about "any kind of sexual preferences."

"I didn't bring them into this world for a teacher to explain to them what is gay -- or what two men or two women do -- some certain things should be left to the parents to decide whether they want their kids to be exposed to it or not -- at least at a certain age."

"I am not against the gay community," he added. "Everybody choosing their own hat, what they want to do, but I do have a problem with them trying to bring it into an elementary school."

Other parents like Erica Denesesn have no concerns.

"It's how the world is today and if you shield them from it, then it's just going to make a bigger impact later... and it might be kinda sideways. I think it's really great to expose them and just talk about everybody," she said.

An LGBTQ Pride flag was burned at an elementary school in North Hollywood and police are now investigating it as a possible hate crime.

The concerns expressed by protesting parents has led to accusations of bigotry and intolerance. The tensions intensified this week with news that a small Pride flag that was on display outside a campus classroom was burned sometime during the weekend of May 20-21.

It's not clear who burned it, but police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

The Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian released a statement Friday night saying that the burning of the Pride flag is unacceptable.

"Whatever disagreements may arise among members of our community, violence, hate speech, and acts of vandalism directed against any group can have no place in our city," the statement read, in part. "The City of Los Angeles has no direct role in the oversight of schools, which are the responsibility of the Los Angeles Unified School District and its Board Members. Public safety, however, is very much the concern of City government. Free expression of disagreement over public policy is a constitutional right, and civil debate is always welcome, and will be protected. Threatening your neighbors and sowing hatred, however, are threats to public safety and will never be tolerated in the City of Los Angeles."

Organizers of the parent protest have vehemently denied any involvement with the flag-burning. They have also insisted that the protest is not founded in intolerance or bigotry -- rather in the belief that parents should have the right to decide when to discuss the topic of LGBTQ pride with their children.

The organizers also posted repeated messages calling on protesters to be peaceful, calm and respectful.

The Los Angeles Unified School District said the book in question was read by students Friday morning during an assembly, but that families were able to opt their children out of attending.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District said, in part: "As part of our engagement with school communities, our schools regularly discuss the diversity of the families that we serve and the importance of inclusion. This remains an active discussion with our school communities and we remain committed to continuing to engage with families about this important topic. Families are always encouraged to discuss important topics with their children and families may also contact their schools for more information about any school programs or activities."

City News Service contributed to this report.