Following a statewide protest advocating for “parents’ rights” on Aug. 25, Glendale Unified School District reported a 21% absence rate districtwide.
In a statement on the district’s Facebook page, GUSD stated that this protest was orchestrated “to express [some parents’] objection to curriculum and policies that promote inclusion, particularly of our LGBTQ+ community.”
A former Glendale City Council candidate and current candidate for GUSD Board of Education, Jordan Henry — who is an outspoken opponent of the LGBTQ+ inclusion policies — urged Glendale parents to keep their children home at an Aug. 22 City Council meeting.
He went on to say that the protest was a demand for schools to mandate that parents be informed of children’s wishes to change their pronouns — calling withholding this information “anti-American” and “disgusting” — as well as a demand for California schools to defer to local authority to adopt curriculum. He compared Teachers Curriculum Institute, a curriculum company headquartered in California, to “totalitarianism.”
Frank Higginbotham, a public commenter at the meeting, described himself as a longtime Glendale resident who sent his children to GUSD schools and previously served as the PTA president at Eleanor J. Toll Middle School. He told Councilmembers he felt sorry for them for having to listen to people like Henry who are promoting their personal agenda.
“It’s a ploy; it’s a political thing being run by Jordan Henry to help his failed political career,” Higginbotham said. Henry ran for City Council in 2022 and lost.
Higginbotham also questioned how Henry knew so much about what was going on in Glendale schools — given that he has no children enrolled at any GUSD campuses — and he denounced claims parents’ rights groups have made about children being groomed at Glendale schools.
A protest in June also encouraged parents to keep their children home from school following the district’s decision to recognize Pride Month. The absence rate for that protest was 29% across the district.
“Attending school every day is essential to student success,” said the GUSD Facebook statement. “We are encouraged that today’s protest garnered less traction than the protest against LGBTQ+ Pride Month organized last June. However, it is clear from today’s attendance data that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure GUSD is an inclusive community for all.”
GUSD compared absentee rates from last Friday’s protest with rates from the previous year on Aug. 26, and found that the highest rates were among elementary schools. The schools with the most absences were Balboa Elementary School with 57% absent Aug. 25, versus 4% absent on Aug. 26, 2022; Jefferson Elementary School with 58% versus 4%; and R.D. White Elementary School with 60% versus 2%. The middle schools that experienced the highest rates of absenteeism were Toll Middle School with 38% versus 1% and Wilson Middle School with 37% versus 2%. Additionally, the high schools with the highest absence rates were Hoover High School, with 25% versus 2%, and Glendale High School, with 24% versus 5%.
According to the communications director at GUSD, these numbers do not include absences of children who missed school due to illness, which are counted as excused absences.
“We work with parents as partners and encourage all parents and other caregivers to ask questions and engage with us about what your child learns in our schools,” the district said. “Our schools will always be safe, welcoming spaces where every child can learn and thrive.”
First published in the September 2 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.