California teacher Kristin Pitzen was removed from teaching in her classroom as an investigation begins into a viral TikTok video where she joked about telling a student to pledging allegiance to a LGBTQ Pride flag rather than to the American flag.
Annette Franco, a spokesperson for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, told the Orange County Register: “Showing respect for our nation’s flag is an important value that we instill in our students and an expectation of our employees. The teacher is no longer in the classroom. We follow due process and our investigation continues.”
Pitzen, an English teacher, initially posted the video on her own TikTok account, @mrsgillingsworth. It has since been deleted.
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In the video, Pitzen begins: “OK, so during third period, we do announcements and they do the Pledge of Allegiance. I always tell my class: ‘Stand if you feel like it, don’t stand if you feel like it, say the words if you want. You don’t have to say the words.’ So my class decided to stand but not say the words. Totally fine. Except for the fact that my room does not have a flag.”
Pitzen noted that she took her American flag down in her classroom “because it made me uncomfortable” during the COVID-19 pandemic but hasn’t located the flag.
“My (student) today goes, ‘Hey, it’s kind of weird that we just stand and we say it to nothing. … In the meantime, I tell this kid, ‘We do have a flag in the class that you can pledge your allegiance to.’
“And he like looks around and goes, ‘Oh, that one?'” Pitzen imitated her student pointing to the rainbow Pride flag.
Pitzen has faced backlash, mainly over social media, with people taking issue less with her suggestion for the LGBTQ flag and more with her tone toward the American flag. One Twitter user said, “Nothing against the pride flag, but we lost 13 service men and women a few days ago for that flag (in Afghanistan)… respect it!”
Richard Grenell, acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, tweeted: “What kind of parent would allow their child to be taught by this wacko?”