Lori Caldeira: Teacher who 'stalked' students to recruit them for LGBTQ club shrugs off criticism
'[LGBTQ kids] they come and spend a year with us and they get all the love and the affirmation that they need,” Lori Caldeira said
A California teacher who confessed to “stalking” her students’ online searches earlier this year to hire them for a school LGBTQ+ club has now defended herself by saying her comments were not meant to be taken literally. Lori Caldeira said that she and her colleague Kelly Baraki of Buena Vista Middle School used to check sixth-grade students' online activity to find kids who can join the LGBTQ club.
At the 2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, ‘Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities’, in Palm Springs in late October, Caldeira stated: “When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren't doing schoolwork.” She also acknowledged the “stalking” while justifying it with how they struggled to get enough students in 2020.
“So we started to brainstorm at the end of the 2020 school year, what are we going to do? 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. 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,” she said while addressing people at the pair's show – “How we run a ‘GSA’ in Conservative Communities.”
Caldeira also noted, “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. And we give them tools to be powerful and brave and bold.” However, someone present at the conference reportedly got shocked with her statement and recorded it only to give it to freelance journalist Abigail Shrier, who wrote a piece based on it.
The title of the November article was ‘How Activists Recruit Kids’. In the bombshell feature, the journalist wrote: “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.”
She added: “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,” while revealing the names of Caldeira and Baraki.
As a result, the school staffers’ ‘You Be You’ LGBTQ club was suspended as well as they were put on administrative leave while an internal probe has been launched. On Tuesday, December 28, Caldeira spoke with The San Francisco Chronicle and claimed to use approved GoGuardian tracking software to “stalk” students. She said, “I see a site that’s emblazoned with rainbows. How am I not going to notice that?”
It was also alleged that Caldeira and Baraki intentionally hid parts of the documentation of the club or its members to restrict parental knowledge of its functioning. Some parents even accused them of trying to become primary influences in their children’s lives. But the teachers refuted it by saying kids already knew several things through social media and instead of raising new concerns, they were addressing pre-existing issues.
“Their parents think we start that conversation, but we don’t. TikTok starts it, Snapchat starts it, Instagram starts it or their classmates start it, and then we just try to answer the questions as honestly and fairly as we can,” Caldeira said, who also added that she and her fellow staffer received death threats amid the controversy and feel terrified to go outside.