More than a hundred protesters and counter-protesters stood on opposite sides of a normally quiet suburban Los Angeles street on Friday.
The two groups had come for one reason: the local primary school was hosting a Pride Month event.
But they had very different views on Saticoy Elementary’s choice of programming.
One group of parents had launched a boycott of the school, labelling the Pride event “indoctrination” and inappropriate for children.
But counter-protesters said the demonstration was discriminatory and that children had the right to learn about different types of families.
At one point, police had to intervene when a fight broke out among protesters. One adult received minor injuries and was treated at the scene, said Los Angeles School Police Department. No arrests were made.
A school employee who answered the phone on Friday said that Saticoy Elementary had planned to read a book to students about some children having “two mommies and two daddies”.
The employee did not provide further details about the event.
Renato Lira, the director of the San Fernando Valley LGBTQ Center, took part in the school’s assembly.
He told the BBC that the children enjoyed the event, which he said involved educators reading from a book that talked about families of different cultures, including families with same-sex parents.
With the event, “we wanted to show our love, respect, we’re united”, Mr Lira told BBC.
The parents who protested were “trying to bully us”, he added.
Gay marriage has gained widespread acceptance – including among most Republicans, according to opinion pollster Gallup – since the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex unions in 2015.
But over the past couple of years, the teaching of gender and sexuality in schools has provoked a conservative-led backlash.
Saticoy Elementary – located in one of the most liberal cities in one of America’s most liberal states – is the latest battleground in that culture war.
The planned boycott of the school’s 2 June Pride event was organised online over the past two weeks.
An anonymous Instagram account, @saticoyelementaryparents, called for parents to keep their children home from school that day.
In mid-May, @saticoyelementaryparents posted the faces, phone numbers and email addresses of officials at the school, as well as other city education officials.
Before Friday’s rally, the Instagram account said that “our protest is in no way an attack on the LGBTQ community”.
But critics said some of the demonstrators’ signs – including “No sexual indoctrination!” and “The only people who want to teach kids sex: Pedophiles” – were discriminatory.
Protesters against the Pride event, however, said that teaching children about LGBT issues is inappropriate and schools should first obtain parental consent for discussing such matters in the classroom.
One parent, who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity, citing the fear that her child at the school might be bullied, said she was tired “of the propaganda”.
“I didn’t come from Armenia for this,” she said, noting her child had returned from school last week with rainbow-coloured stickers and other items.
“I came for freedom and for my children to learn about math and education, not about this. I might go back home.”
On the opposite side of the street, counter-protesters waved Pride and transgender flags.
“Today, we’re here to celebrate Pride!” one person declared through a bullhorn.
A woman held a sign reading: “Hate has no home here.”
Other parents said that teaching children about same-sex couples simply reflected the reality of American life today.
“It’s how the world is today and if you shield them from it, then it’s just going to make a bigger impact later,” one parent, Erica Denesesn, told a local ABC News affiliate.
On 22 May, a transgender man who teaches at Saticoy Elementary School reported that a Pride flag in his office had been burned, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The incident occurred after a different conservative-leaning, parents’ rights Instagram account shared what it claimed were photos of the teacher before and after transition.
The LAPD was investigating the flag-burning as a hate crime, officer Tony Im confirmed to BBC News.
He declined to share more details, citing an ongoing investigation.
“We know the flag was burned, we responded,” Mr Im said.
The teacher and officials at Saticoy Elementary School did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment about the incident.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the city’s powerful teacher’s union, condemned “the egregious behaviour by bigoted protestors that outed the gender identity of a teacher at Saticoy Elementary”.
Source : BBC