Tenured California middle-school teacher Lori Caldeira, who said she ‘stalked’ sixth-grade students’ online searches earlier this year to recruit for a school LGBTQ+ club, now claims her comments were meant to be ‘tongue in cheek.’
Caldeira acknowledged that she and fellow Buena Vista Middle School staffer Kelly Baraki monitored students’ online activity, to identify suitable candidates an LGBTQ club, but said her ‘stalking’ comments were not meant to be taken literally.
Still, the backlash was charged and immediate.
Tenured California middle-school teacher Lori Caldeira, who shockingly confessed she ‘stalked’ sixth-grade students’ online searches to seek out recruits for an LGBTQ+ club at her school earlier this year, now claims her comments were meant to be ‘tongue in cheek’
‘When we were doing our virtual learning – we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing schoolwork,’ Caldeira said during a speech at the 2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities, in Palm Springs in late October..
She described how she and Baraki would look at students’ home internet searches ‘to try and identify kids’ interested in an LGBTQ club, which the pair organized at the school. They failed to recruit enough students in 2020.
‘So we started to brainstorm at the end of the 2020 school year, what are we going to do?’ Caldeira told attendees at the pair’s exhibit, presided over by the California Teacher’s Association conference, titled ‘How we run a ‘GSA’ in Conservative Communities.’
‘We got to see some kids in-person at the end of last year, not many but a few. So we started to try and identify kids,’ Caldeira, who predominantly teaches kids aged 11 to 12, continued.
‘One of them was Googling “Trans Day of Visibility.” And we’re like, “Check.” We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.’
Astounded by the teacher’s comments, someone at the conference recorded Caldeira’s remarks and sent them to freelance journalist Abigail Shrier – author of ‘The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters’ – who wrote an explosive article.
Caldeira is currently employed by Buena Vista Middle School in Salinas, where she heads a Gay Straight Alliance club with another staffer. The pair have since been suspended pending an investigation
As of Wednesday, Caldeira is still employed by the school, where she regularly teaches children aged 11 to 12
‘Last month, the California Teachers Association (CTA) held a conference advising teachers on best practices for subverting parents, conservative communities and school principals on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation,’ Shrier wrote in the piece, How Activists Recruit Kids, published November 18.
‘Speakers went so far as to tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents.’
The article went on to name both Caldeira and Baraki specifically, as well as their gay-straight-alliance club.
As a result, the pair’s ‘You Be You,’ LGBTQ club was suspended and both teachers were placed on administrative leave until the school completes an internal investigation.
‘We have LGBTQ kids who come to us, and they come and spend a year with us and they get all the love and the affirmation that they need,’ Caldeira reportedly said in the recorded clip.
‘And we give them tools to be powerful and brave and bold, but then they go hang with their friends at lunch. And they do their things. And we love them for that, but we miss them when they don’t join us. So we saw our membership numbers start to decline.’
Baraki then adds in the recording that the pair’s teachings already had sparked backlash among parents the year prior, when she and Caldeira introduced topics involving gender and sex to their sixth-grade students.
Caldeira said her ‘stalking’ comments at the 2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities, in Palm Springs in late October (pictured) were not to be taken literally, after an attendee recorded the contentious remarks
She offered as a solution, starting LGBTQ teachings earlier on in the school year.
‘Next year, they’ll be going first with this presentation and the gender stuff will be the first thing they are about. Hopefully to mitigate, you know, these kind of responses, right?’
Baraki then presented a parent email objecting to such presentations.
The parent wrote that she had not intended to have a conversation with her middle-schooler, a sixth-grader, about sexual orientation and gender identity, but the school presentation forced her to do so.
Baraki proceeded to mock the parent to her audience: ‘I know, so sad, right? Sorry for you, you had to do something hard! Honestly, your 12-year-old probably knew all that, right?’
She said one parent objected so starkly to the curriculum, that the principal ‘invited them to take their child to a private school that more aligns with them,’ Caldeira says in the clip.
‘So that was a win, right? We count that as a win.’
Caldeira then adds: “Plus, I hate to say this, but thank you CTA—but I have tenure! You can’t fire me for running a GSA.
‘And so, you can be mad, but you can’t fire me for it.’
The two teachers said they limited information about the club and its members to keep parents’ awareness minimal. Angry parents said the teachers were trying to take their places in critical decision-making for their kids.
One outraged parent said her daughter’s name and pronouns had been changed without her knowledge and consent – and that when she complained the school reported her to Child Protective Services.
‘You took away my ability to parent my child, even before I had any knowledge!’ Jessica Konen said. ‘I didn’t even get to show support. You asked for support, I didn’t get the chance.’
The case against Konen and her husband was later dropped.
Meanwhile, Caldeira told The San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday that she and Baraki were using approved GoGoGuardian software for their self-proclaimed ‘stalking,’ The software was widely adopted during the pandemic to allow teachers to monitor student activity and prevent online misconduct.
‘I see a site that’s emblazoned with rainbows. How am I not going to notice that?’ Caldeira said, arguing that students are already engaged in social media patterns.
She aid she was addressing concerns, not creating them.
The teachers argued that their club provides an outlet for children who are uncomfortable revealing their LGBTQ concerns to their families, and recruiting them in school allows students, in their pre-teens, to make such a connection.
Concerning the ‘we totally stalked what they were doing on Google’ comment, Caldeira asserted, ‘It was tongue in cheek.’ She added that teachers do not have access to students’ private social posts, messages and emails.
The probe is ongoing, and Caldeira and Baraki will remain suspended pending its conclusions.
In the meantime, the teachers each said they have received multiple death threats in the wake of the controversy and are afraid to leave their homes.