A Southern California teacher is facing criticism after posting a TikTok suggesting that kids salute the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. In the controversial clip, Kristen Pitzen said the US flag made her “uncomfortable,” leading some to accuse her of disparaging the country.
Pitzen, an English as a second language teacher in Newport Beach, began the clip by explaining how Back Bay High School does the Pledge of Allegiance every day during third period.
Teacher mocks the American Flag and suggests to students they can say the Pledge of Allegiance to the pride flag: pic.twitter.com/1QTS5xjPln— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) August 27, 2021
“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,'” Pitzen said in the since-deleted clip. “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.”
The teacher went on to explain that she removed the US flag from her class “during COVID, because it made me uncomfortable.”
“I’ve packed it away, and I don’t know where, and I haven’t found it yet,” Pitzen laughed in the clip.
When a student asked why there was no flag for them to salute, Pitzen said she told them she was still looking for it, before shaking her head “no” jokingly. She then said that she told the student that, in lieu of the US flag, they could salute the Pride flag displayed in the classroom.
If the American flag makes you uncomfortable then leave the country. I’m not kidding. Actually go somewhere that doesn’t fly the American flag so much. Please go nobody will miss you, you’ll be happier everyone will win.— ignore the @ (@OneTrueDumbass) August 27, 2021
The video went viral on TikTok and other platforms, sparking widespread anger in commenters. While some objected to Pitzen’s inclusion of a Pride flag in the classroom, many were angered by her exclusion of the US flag.
Meanwhile, a small minority of commenters defended Pitzen’s freedom to remove the flag from her classroom.
My favorite is when people get mad and say “that flag represents those who fought for her freedom!” Like yeah, her freedom to say whatever she wants. Nobody has to agree with her but they also can’t talk about her freedom while telling her why to say/do.— Sprinkingofsass (@Sprinklinofsass) August 28, 2021
Following the uproar, Pitzen has been removed from the classroom pending an investigation, according to Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
“Showing respect for our nation’s flag is a value that we instill in our students and an expectation of our employees,” district spokesperson Annette Franco told The Mercury News. “The teacher is no longer in the classroom. We follow due process and our investigation continues.”
A personal post by a teacher about the American flag is causing alarm/concern. Respecting our flag is a value we instill in students and is an expectation of our staff. We take this matter with extreme seriousness and are investigating and addressing it.— Newport-Mesa USD (@nmusd) August 28, 2021
Newport-Mesa’s district policies stipulate that each school hold daily “patriotic exercises,” including the pledge, as well as display the US flag on school grounds. However, the policies state that “individuals may choose not to participate in the flag salute for personal reasons.” Furthermore, the district has no requirement that individual classrooms display the US flag.
In a statement, Newport-Mesa school board President Karen Yelsey said she was “very disappointed, and I was outraged when I saw this, because it bothers me personally.”
Yelsey added that Pitzen should have been more cautious with her social media posts.
“I think most people know, rational people know, they should be mindful of what they put on social media,” Yelsey said.