GLENDALE, Calif. (KTLA) – At least three people were arrested after fights broke out amid a school district meeting on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ studies in Glendale, California, on Tuesday.
Large barricades set up by Glendale Police to control crowds were seen containing hundreds of demonstrators outside of the Glendale Unified School District headquarters.
A dispersal order was issued around 6:15 p.m. as police were heard using a loudspeaker to order the crowds’ removal, declaring an unlawful assembly. A large barricade was placed in the middle of the parking lot, separating the two contentious groups.
While most of the protest remained peaceful, police said a “small group of individuals engaged in behavior deemed unsafe and a risk to public safety.”
Officers were also heard saying they would not hesitate to use a chemical agent against the crowds.
Following the arrests, additional attempts to de-escalate the crowds were unsuccessful. Extra police units were called to the scene.
Inside the packed meeting room, the school board late Tuesday night approved, for the fifth year in a row, a resolution designating June as LGBTQ+ Pride month.
Demonstrators from both sides showed up on Tuesday night to either support or protest the school board’s meeting for a consideration resolution on the LGBTQ+ curriculum.
Attendees were made up of both parents and community members.
Advocates said LGBTQ+ representation is especially important when it comes to inclusion in school studies. Opponents, however, said that while some didn’t oppose the LGBTQ+ community, they didn’t want the content to be introduced to children.
“Bringing in curriculum for K-6 on gender ideology, that is what we’re against,” said Any Torosyan, a Glendale parent opposing the curriculum. Torosyan believes money should be spent focusing on improving students’ testing scores instead.
“We were talking about children,” said Philip George, an LGBTQ+ curriculum opposer. “They are not ready for such choices. It confuses them and ultimately these are things that parents should decide.”
Glendale School District Superintendent, Vivian Vekchian, disagrees with that idea, saying representation is important in schools as being an LGBTQ+ person is not a choice.
“Our primary focus in our school district is to be inclusive,” said Vekchian. “Every student matters, every family member matters. We do follow state laws and California Department of Education guidelines.”
“They should be taught because so many of them already at 3 years old know who they are and they need to know the options they have in life,” said Maebe Putlo, an LGBTQ+ supporter. “To close them off, to shut down the questions that they already have in their minds. I wish there were books out there that I could turn to, mentors out there I could turn to or the facilities out there I could turn to because I grew up feeling totally alone.”
Glendale school officials tell Nexstar’s KTLA the Pride-inclusive curriculum is nothing new and has been in effect since 2019. However, the resolution is presented for reconsideration annually.
In an effort to prevent what school officials say is “harmful disinformation,” a curriculum fact sheet and FAQ statement regarding the LGBTQ+ topics covered in the classroom was released online.
The three people arrested face various charges including willfully obstructing officers and the unlawful use of pepper spray. Their identities have not been released.
Police said many of the Glendale protestors were also present during a violent exchange between groups outside Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood last week over a scheduled Pride event.
Earlier Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District school board unanimously voted to recognize Pride Month. The resolution also encouraged all schools in the nation’s second-largest district to incorporate lessons on the LGBTQ+ community into the curriculum and affirmed a “commitment to creating a safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning environment for all LGBTQ+ students, families, and staff members.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.