Calif. Teacher Placed on Leave After Joking Her Students Could Pledge Allegiance to Gay Pride Flag

Kristen Pitzen shared the story in a viral TikTok video, which the Newport-Mesa Unified School District said is under investigation

Progress Pride flag
Progress Pride flag. Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty

A California teacher was removed from her classroom after she joked in a viral video that she told her students they could pledge allegiance to the LGBTQ pride flag instead of the American flag.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District has launched an investigation into Kristen Pitzen over the video, the district said in a statement. While the investigation continues, Pitzen has been placed on administrative leave.

"We assure you that we take matters like this seriously," the district's statement read. "Showing respect for our nation's flag is an important value that we instill in our students and an expectation of our employees."

Pitzen's video has since been deleted from her TikTok, but has continued to circulate on social media. In the one-minute clip, Pitzen explained that she generally allows her students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance based on their comfortability level.

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"So, my class decided to stand but not say the words," she said. "Totally fine, except for the fact that my room does not have a flag. It used to be there, but I took it down during COVID because it made me uncomfortable. I packed it away, and I don't know where, and I haven't found it yet."

She continued, "But, my kid today goes, 'Hey, it's kinda weird that we just stand and then we say it to nothing.' "

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Pitzen said she reassured the student that she'd find the flag, adding: "In the meantime, I tell this kid, 'We do have a flag in the class that you can pledge your allegiance to.' He looks around and he goes, 'Oh, that one?' "

The video ended with Pitzen laughing as she spun to reveal the LGBTQ pride flag hanging on the wall.

Pitzen is a teacher at Back Bay High School in Costa Mesa, California, according to KTLA. On Tuesday, the news station reported that several miniature American flags and gay pride flags were propped up around the school by area residents and parents.

"I'd like to share with her, if she doesn't know, about the importance of respecting the flag," Michele Vaughn, who left an American flag outside the school, told the station. "I won't disrespect her flag. I don't think she should be disrespecting the flag of our country, and I think that it's very poor judgment of her to make a video like that, especially three days after 13 of our service members were killed."

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