Many Journalists Keep Treating LOKA Like a Grassroots Movement. It isn't.
The Leave Our Kids Alone (LOKA) movement appears to be a progression of the anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine movement that first appeared in 2020 and gained traction in 2021 with the help of far-right think tanks who saw it as an opening to undermine public education (and privatize it). The far-right California Policy Center, led by Will Swain, is now pushing for statewide parental notification, ban on trans kids in sports, and end to trans healthcare.
Despite ample documentation and evidence of this long game to destroy public education in the U.S., many media outlets continue to treat people like Jordan Henry as "concerned parents" instead of anti-public education agitators.
The LOKA branding first appeared on June 2nd, 2023 during the Saticoy Elementary protests. Shirts were handed out to attendees, staged in a resident's driveway. "Grooming" becomes the allegation.
Journalists covering the Saticoy protest set the tone for all subsequent mainstream media coverage (LA Times, KCRW, LAist, The Economist, etc.), most notably:
Assuming every adult there is a parent / resident of the District. We know that most people at the protests are not parents in these districts and/or are not parents at all.
Interviewing the "RevComms" as if they are legitimitate representatives of the community. They are not.
If protesters *are* parents, many are homeschoolers or in private school.
Journalists have never asked the handful of current GUSD parents in LOKA whether or not they have worked with District staff regarding their concerns. (Ani Torosyan and Aneta Krpekyan repeatedly have used public comment to make accusations, knowing that public comment is, by board policy, not a place for conversation or debate with GUSD leadership.)
Establishing that the rights of LGBTQ+ people in public schools is a "side" to be contested, and that "gender ideology" is a legitimate subject being taught in public schools. Journalists fail to mention the fact: schools are following state and federal law requiring them to protect students of all identities.
Failure to note the connection between far-right think tanks and "school choice" legal advocacy orgs like the California Policy Council, anti-government extremists (like the Proud Boys), Christian nationalist groups and LOKA (with the notable exception of the Daily Beast). These movements are well-documented and seek to destroy public education with costly lawsuits that drain budgets, trigger teacher flight, and ultimately lead to privatization / voucher systems.
Ignoring the LOKA leadership. By mid-June, protests at Chino, Glendale, Temecula, and Orange made it clear that LOKA was a coordinated, well-funded attack on public education. The LOKA leaders appeared at several districts' board meetings: Manuk Grigoryan (appears to live in the Valley), Ani Torosyan (GUSD parent), Aneta Krpekyan (GUSD parent), Bryce Henson/Ben Richards (does not have custody of his children, based on publicly available info), Narine Tadevosyan (homeschooler), Belissa Cohen (childless), Jordan Henry (no children enrolled in GUSD) and others continue to avoid any rigorous scrutiny by journalists.
For example, LOKA follower Ani Torosyan recently spoke to the Economist, complaining of "low test scores" at her child's GUSD school. Just 3 weeks ago, she appeared at Glendale City Council to promote a "walkout protest" on August 25th.
Journalists should be asking her and other LOKA supporters what the priority is - political stunts involving truancy, or being in school learning.
Failure to investigate why immigrant communities are being disproportionately targeted with disinformation. In Glendale, schools with higher proportions of immigrant parents are being targeted by LOKA, especially the Armenian and Spanish-speaking families. Those schools had the highest walkout participation in June 2023 and August 2023. Meanwhile, the schools with the highest test scores in Glendale had like-normal attendance. Why are vulnerable parents being lied to about what is going on in school, and by whom?
Questions journalists should be asking at "parental rights" protests:
Do you have children enrolled in this public school district?
Have you spoken to the principal and teachers about your concerns?
What is your expertise in public K-12 education?
What is your message to parents of LGBTQ+ children in public schools?
Are you asking this District to break the laws protecting student privacy and civil rights?
If your concern is "grooming" and "curriculum," are you planning to also protest at private schools?
What policies are you advocating for?
Can you define "gender ideology"?
What do you think about using taxpayer money for vouchers?
BONUS: Handy guide to why the Rev Comms are not worth any journalists' time in a story about school boards.