ORANGE COUNTY, CA – A teacher for a Southern California school district has been removed from her duties while an investigation is conducted into a TikTok video she recorded where she talks about removing the “uncomfortable” American flag from her classroom and encouraging her students to pledge allegiance to the LGBTQ Pride flag instead.
Kristen Pitzen, an English-as-a-second-language teacher for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, deleted all of her social media accounts after receiving backlash over the TikTok video in question. In the video, Pitzen describes removing the American flag in her classroom because it made her “uncomfortable” and then claimed to have lost it.
“During third period, we have 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,” Pitzen says, while repeatedly laughing throughout the video. “So, my class decided to stand but not say the words. Totally fine. Except for the fact that my room doesn’t have a flag. I took it down during COVID because it made me uncomfortable and I packed it away and I don’t know where and I haven’t found it yet.”
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When told by her students that it was “weird” reciting the pledge without the American flag present, Pizen said that she told them “I’ve got to find it, I’m working on it,” followed by a laugh that suggests she had no intention of doing so.
Pitzen then said that she told the students that “we do have a flag that you can pledge your allegiance to” and then pans the camera around to a Pride flag hanging on the classroom wall.
There was considerable backlash online from parents and conservatives, including former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell – a gay man – who tweeted “What kind of parent would allow their child to be taught by this wacko?”
Responding to the complaints, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District noted that Pitzen had been “removed” from her teaching duties while the incident is being investigated.
“On Friday evening, one of our teachers created a personal social media post that caused alarm and concern related to saluting the American flag,” school officials said. “Showing respect for our nation’s flag is an important value our District instills in our students and is an expectation of our employees. We take this matter seriously and are investigating and addressing it.”