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After Right-Wing Extremists Instigated Violence in My Community, We Organized

June 2, 2023, was an exciting day – my daughter was walking in her elementary school graduation ceremony that afternoon. It was also a bit scary as we didn’t know if something might happen at her ceremony because right-wing extremists had been targeting Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) for teaching a state-mandated LGBTQ+ curriculum. They had pressured the Glendale PTA and most schools to cancel Pride Month events and that morning, some had participated in a protest that became violent outside Saticoy Elementary because of the school’s age-appropriate Pride Month assembly. 

I was concerned they might protest at my daughter’s graduation ceremony. I identify as bisexual, my daughter is a lesbian, and my brother is gay. This issue is personal to us. Maybe it is the innocence of the young, but thankfully my daughter wasn’t very worried and wore rainbow colors as she had planned. I, on the other hand, showed up in my rainbow shawl and earrings with a feeling of trepidation. Are extremists here? Will any confront me for wearing rainbow accessories?

I proudly watched my courageous daughter walk across the stage and receive her Certificate of Completion, without incident. 

But on June 6, those extremists, most of whom are not Glendale residents or parents, brought in members of the Proud Boys and other January 6 insurrectionist supporters to protest against the school district. They instigated violence outside the school board meeting, resulting in multiple injuries and three arrests. 

Right-wing attacks on Glendale Unified School District are not new. They started during COVID with protests against the implementation of Los Angeles County Public Health mandates when students, teachers, and staff returned to in-person instruction in the spring of 2021. During that time an individual, who was not a GUSD parent, repeatedly joined Zoom school board meetings and railed against the school district for teaching critical race theory (which is not true in any K-12 district in the country). 

When CRT and masking didn’t build enough outrage and protest in Glendale for the extremists, in 2022 they went after a 3rd-grade teacher for allegedly showing age-appropriate LGBTQ+ Pride videos to her students in 2021 – yes, they complained about a lesson that had happened nearly a year earlier. The veteran teacher received death threats and was transferred to teach online rather than in the classroom. 

Extremists continued to build on that outrage, making ridiculous accusations that the school district staff are “grooming” children to be gay and trans, teaching about sexual activity, and more. Their tactics culminated in violence outside GUSD school board meetings on June 6 and 20, 2023. To this day, they continue to wear t-shirts saying “Leave Our Kids Alone” and travel from one school board meeting to another throughout Southern California. Such extremists are part of a growing national strategy that uses culture wars to end public education and move our tax dollars to pay for private school vouchers.  

Early this year, a group of parents from the district joined to form GUSD Parents for Public Schools to educate other parents and community members to dispel the disinformation and to show support for our school district. We use social media, letters to the editor, media releases, and one-on-one conversations to provide facts and empower our community to stand up against these extremist bullies. We have organized actions in support of our school district and in support of equity and inclusion for all GUSD students and staff. 

GUSD Parents for Public Schools is now organizing to support two wonderful candidates for two seats that will soon be open on the Glendale Unified School District school board. They are running against extremist candidates who have been leading the hateful charge against our school district and our city, and we are hopeful that if they win by large margins, the extremists will finally leave our district alone and we won’t have a repeat of the violence they instigated this past June.  Telly Tse is a GUSD parent, a special education teacher in another district, and a long-time soccer coach, running to represent Area A. Neda Farid is a parent of a GUSD graduate, former president of the Glendale Council PTA, and an active member of multiple Glendale organizations, running for Area E. Telly Tse and Neda Farid are staunch champions of public schools, diversity in our schools, and inclusion and support for all students and educators in our district. 

A majority of Glendale residents do not support the extremists. So we will be knocking on doors, writing letters, and calling voters to turn them out to vote for Telly and Neda on March 5, 2024 – our children depend on us and we cannot let them down.  Thank you to Courage California for including them in your voter guide!

Stay tuned – my next blog post will share how the campaign is going early next year! 

By: Joann Lo, Labor organizer and Courage California Institute board member