UPDATE, 8/31/21: Kristin Pitzen, the California schoolteacher who posted video to social media of herself instructing students to say the pledge of allegiance to a Progress Pride flag, has been removed from her classroom pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation by the Newport Mesa Unified School District.
"We are aware that one of our teachers posted a video on their personal social media that caused alarm and concern related to saluting the American flag," Annette Franco, a spokesperson for the school district, wrote in an email to Newsweek. "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."
The school district did not provide any further information on the investigation.
ORIGINAL, 8/30/21: A schoolteacher in California has become the focus of conservative angst after she posted a video to social media which showed her telling students to pledge allegiance to a Progress Pride flag rather than the American flag, which she had earlier removed from the classroom because it made her uncomfortable.
Kristin Pitzen, whose now-deleted LinkedIn profile noted she teaches 11th grade English at Back Bay High School in Costa Mesa, Orange County, posted the video to her since-deleted TikTok profile where she laughingly describes the incident.
"I always tell my class stand if you feel like, don't stand if you feel like it, say the words if you want, don't say the words if they don't want to," Pitzen said in the video, referring to how student take part in the pledge of allegiance in her class. "So my class decided to stand but not say the words. Totally fine. Except for the fact, my room does not have a flag."
"It used to be there," she said in the video, pointing to a corner of the whiteboard behind her. "But I took it down during COVID because it made me uncomfortable. And I packed it away, but I don't know where and I haven't found it yet."
But when the students said it was "kind of weird" to stand and say the pledge when there was no American flag in the room, Pitzen explained it was lost in storage at the moment and that she would do her best to find it.
"'In the meantime,' I tell this kid, 'We do have this flag in the class that you can pledge your allegiance to.' And he looks around and goes, 'Oh, that one?'" at which point Pitzen panned the camera to show a Progress Pride flag hanging on a wall in the classroom.
Pitzen had earlier posted a video to TikTok showing off the collection of Pride flags in her classroom, saying "I pledge allegiance to the queers."
Conservative backlash was quick and fierce, with even out, former director of national intelligence Richard Grenell posting his disgust to Twitter.
After questioning why parents would let their children be taught by "someone they don't know," he went on to write he'd like to "talk to people who think this is good."
Another person posted to Facebook, saying that Pitzen "is an absolute disgrace to teachers" and warned the teacher to keep her own "views and political stances out of the classroom." Herring concluded by saying if Pitzen was so "uncomfortable" that she has to "belittle children that are asking for the flag for the pledge of allegiance, then find another career that is not effecting [sic] our youth."
The Newport-Mesa Unified School district later posted a statement to their Facebook page saying they were aware of the incident and that, "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."
Not all the comments were negative, however, and there was a good deal of support for Pitzen and her colorful Pride pledge of allegiance.
"A free country does not compel its citizens to pledge allegiance," one person commented. "A non-free country does, though."