Some Huntington Beach residents near Edison High School woke up this morning to find anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Semitic flyers on their driveway during Pride Month.
The flyers were distributed after a viral video of an Edison High teacher showing her class a student-created clip about Pride Month. The video, which surfaced earlier this week, shows some students booing before the teacher tells the classroom to settle down or face Saturday school.
Councilwoman Natalie Moser expressed concern about the flyers in a Wednesday phone interview and said that a resident sent her a picture of the flyer.
“The hatred out there right now – within our community, outside of our community – is escalating. And it’s sad to see these flyers dropped in our local neighborhood, right by Edison (High School) on what I believe is the day of their graduation,” she said.
Jessica Cuchilla, a spokeswoman for Huntington Beach Police Department, confirmed that an officer responded to a neighborhood near the school and collected numerous flyers.
“We did take a report and are currently investigating and looking into this incident. But we take our reports seriously and we’re committed to investigating this,” she said.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Gracey Van Der Mark and some parents spoke out at Tuesday’s Huntington Beach Union High School District board meeting condemning the actions of the teacher in the viral video.
“At no time was the teacher concerned with the student’s visceral reactions as they watched the video clips of couples in intimate positions and poses. In my opinion, it was not the students who were being inappropriate in that video,” she said.
Van Der Mark also said she has received emails demanding an apology for calling on parents to speak out against the actions of the teacher and the video shown in class.
“I will never apologize for encouraging parents to express their concerns anytime they are worried about their child’s safety or well being. Never,” she said.
Moser said she doesn’t know what motivated the distribution of the flyers, but that Van Der Mark’s actions didn’t help.
“As leaders, we have a responsibility to our community to set the tone and I think that how we do that helps frame and determine how our community responds to things,” she said.
“We have a responsibility that I hope that every city council member acknowledges at this moment. And as we move forward.”
Van Der Mark said in a Wednesday phone call after publication of this article that the incident did not have anything to do with the viral video and put out a statement against the flyers.
“This is not the first time this has happened. This is actually happening nationwide in different areas. So it’s not unique to Huntington Beach,” she said. “I find the flyers disturbing. And the community is actually getting together to try to find out who did this.”
Moser also acknowledged that the distribution of flyers like these has happened before in Huntington Beach.
In April 2021, the city received several reports that Ku Klux Klan flyers were distributed to homes in the downtown area.
In a Wednesday phone interview, Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton said it’s critical to stand up against the type of messaging found in the flyers.
“So that people know what we as a community find acceptable and what we regard as unacceptable. Otherwise, people don’t know what our community stands for,” she said.
“The other piece of this too is that the residents also have to speak out and articulate what we believe is acceptable and what we believe is unacceptable.”
In a Wednesday post from the city’s Twitter account, Mayor Tony Strickland said he was “appalled to hear that a small number of unfortunate residents” received the flyer and condemned the messaging in it.
“Hateful rhetoric or prejudice of any kind is inexcusable and we have zero tolerance for it within our community,” he said in his statement.
Strickland did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Huntington Beach’s new Republican City Council majority earlier this year banned flying the rainbow Pride banner on city property by adopting a policy limiting what flags can be hoisted at government buildings.
Orange County Supervisors adopted a similar policy last week, but yesterday voted to recognize June as Pride month.
Meanwhile, OC Human Relations Commission’s annual hate crime report released September shows an 83% increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in 2021.
Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have increased by 2,100% since 2017, according to the commission.
In March, the Anti-Defamation League reported 55 anti-semitic incidents in OC and Long Beach in 2022, including 2 assaults – the most ever recorded in the region. The group also reported a record high increase in anti-semitism in the state and across the country.
State Senator Dave Min also condemned the flyers in a Wednesday statement.
“The actions of a repugnant few continue to define Huntington Beach as a place that is unwelcome to diversity, inclusion, and tolerance,” Min’s statement reads. “If we are going to repair the reputation of Surf City, now is the time to look at the root problems that are driving this crisis of hate.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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