Fox News’ coverage of a transgender teacher’s TikTok account brought about death threats against the teacher, their colleagues, and their schools. In December, just after Fox News published a story about the teacher, a person threatened to blow up the school, the teacher’s home, and the school district office.
The threat, which claimed that explosives had been placed in various locations, turned out to be a hoax.
This wasn’t the first threat made against the teacher since their TikTok account put them in Fox News’ crosshairs. Nor was Fox’s December story about the teacher the first—or last—story the conservative outlet would publish. Since September, Fox has published at least five stories about Flint (@justflintisfine), a transgender teacher in Orange County, California. The most recent was published on March 18.
Fox News has repeatedly written about Flint having books in their classroom that include content about LGBTQ sex—which they said were intended for a queer student group—honing in on passages that discuss group sex and BDSM. In its coverage, the right-wing network has not mentioned that the four titles it focused on are rated for the audience they are intended for: teens.
Flint said the district subsequently reviewed and removed the four titles out of hundreds in the library, which were intended for the queer student group. Yet Fox News’ subsequent coverage of Flint elides that, making it seem as if the titles are still available.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot last week, Flint described what it’s like to be targeted by Fox News as part of the right-wing push against LGBTQ-affirming educators.
“It was hugely traumatic. I’d never been the focus of any kind of national attention, especially national attention that was homophobic,” said Flint, who uses they/them pronouns and asked to withhold their last name for safety reasons.
Conservatives have been ramping up attacks on the LGBTQ community for the last several years. Trans people and educators who are either LGBTQ or LGBTQ-affirming have been their primary focus. Being both trans and a teacher made Flint a perfect target for Fox News. The outlet has written at least four stories about Flint since the school year began, all by the same author.
Fox News published its first story about Flint in September. The story singled out four books from what Flint describes as their “queer library”: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Being Trans, The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality, Juliet Takes a Breath, and This Book Is Gay.
Fox wrote that the books contained “sex imagery, information on orgies, and BDSM.”
The story was based on a TikTok Flint posted that showed some of the titles in their queer library.
Flint said that they’ve been maintaining the queer library, which contains hundreds of titles, for eight years without issue but acknowledged that they haven’t read every page of every book.
“The idea that a teacher reads cover to cover every book that they have in their collection is a little intense,” they said.
Amazon rates two of the books as suitable for young teens; it doesn’t include an age rating for the other two. The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality is a glossary of queer and trans terminology written for “queer youth and newly identified queers.” The Fox News article didn’t mention this fact or that This Book Is Gay won the 2018 Garden State Teen Book Award. Nor did it mention that Flint teaches high school juniors and seniors, who are typically between 16 and 18 years old, when most teens are well past the age they receive state-mandated sex education.
The story about the queer library caused an uproar.
“Someone called and threatened to burn down our school with the kids in it the day after the article published,” Flint said.
Flint forwarded the Daily Dot multiple emails the school received the day Fox News published its first story about them. One called them a “groomer,” another said having those books in their library is “nothing short of child abuse.” Yet another said, “You should lose your job and face criminal prosecution for endangering a minor. You are a straight up groomer.” All four came from different email addresses.
Out of concern for their safety and at the advice of administrators, Flint didn’t participate in back-to-school night. Months later, their voice grows sad to recall that this was one of their students’ first introductions to them. This sadness is paired with the sense of violation for being both outed and deadnamed to the entire school. Fox has used Flint’s former name, known as a deadname in trans and nonbinary communities, in all of its articles. It has also repeatedly misgendered them.
The school reacted by putting the four books under review and later deciding to pull them. Earlier this month, the district told Fox News, “With regard to the audit of classroom library materials, we completed that work last year and any inappropriate materials were removed.”
Before the raging anti-LGBTQ culture war began, Flint, who teaches English and film, said that parents would occasionally question if a book was appropriate. After a review, the school would decide whether to keep it in its curriculum or restrict access.
This is a fairly straightforward practice school districts have been following for decades. As conservative politicians and media have weaponized school curriculum against teachers and LGBTQ people, more and more books are being challenged and banned from schools. The American Library Association reported that there was an “unprecedented” increase in the efforts to ban books in 2021. Many dealt with LGBTQ topics; most were written by Black or LGBTQ authors.
After Fox News’ first piece, which spread to other conservative outlets, Flint set their TikTok account to private. They said the Fox News reporter must be a follower as she was able to view their posts while their account was private.
Fox News wasn’t done covering Flint. In December, it published two articles on them. In March, it posted another. All but one of its stories are based on Flint’s subsequent TikToks. Flint noted that although the school pulled the books in September, the stories read as if they were still available.
These articles preceded yet another wave of hatred against Flint.
Flint provided the Daily Dot with an expletive-laced bomb threat. The email used the same rhetoric that conservatives have taken to lobbing at LGBTQ individuals, educators, and advocates. It accused the school of encouraging “sexually deviant and degenerate behavior from its staff” and of being “child abusers.”
“We won’t tolerate this, we won’t stand idly which is why we placed multiple pipe bombs in [Flint’s] classroom, as well as in other locations in the high school,” someone identifying themself as Zamina Tamaro wrote.
“The Capistrano Unified School District Education Center [has] also been rigged with explosives and will detonate shortly after receiving this email. The school district is equally as bad for ENCOURAGING this degeneracy. Fuck you all, we’ll see you burn in hell.”
Once again, Flint found themself in the gripped by terror.
“It was the kind of trauma that’s not easy to recover from,” they said last week.
The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax. The Capistrano Dispatch reports that local police and the FBI are investigating.
The author of Flint’s articles did not respond to a detailed inquiry sent via email on March 21. Her author profile is filled with stories covering people in the education system. Fox News did not respond to a general inquiry about the articles and bomb threat.
In a recent TikTok, Flint said the reporting “characterizes me as a predator, as someone who is intentionally and maliciously grooming and indoctrinating children for an agenda which is bonkers.”
Flint grew up in the area where they teach and knows it well, which makes it “laughable” to think “I would be able to survive as a trans teacher teaching explicit sexual material in my classroom.”
Although the school system and community initially weren’t sure how to respond to Fox News’ attacks and the violent threats and outrage each inspires, it’s become more adept at being the focus of the right-wing outrage machine. Flint didn’t initially have a strong support system to navigate being thrust unwillingly onto the national stage, but that’s changed since then. Many of their supporters showed up to a December meeting called to discuss anti-LGBTQ bigotry and accusations of sexually explicit classroom materials.
The Dana Point Times reports that one parent at the meeting said of Fox News’ coverage, “The hate speech that has been perpetuated by the articles written in the national news media are to blame for the threats and we, as a community, must come together to reject them. They are meant to dehumanize because once a person or a group of people are othered, they are alone and easier to attack.”
But all the attention has had a chilling effect on LGBTQ students and faculty, Flint said.
“I’ve already seen fewer students show up to the queer student alliance. We’re not able to do as much outreach, as many events,” Flint said.
Some students have shown concern for Flint, which they said “breaks my heart.”
“It’s really sad when I’m supposed to be a support for my students and seeing them taking on that role for me.”
In spite of the controversy, Flint feels more determined to keep teaching and creating content online.
“I know what I’m making helps a lot of families understand their kids better and a lot of teachers feel less isolated and alone, and I’m not going to be intimidated out of doing that,” Flint said, adding, “Ironically, I think [Fox News is] keeping me in this profession.”
Even though they do get anxious and afraid, Flint has managed to find some humor in the situation. After Fox sent a media inquiry to the school district earlier this month, in advance of another story, Flint posted a TikTok joking about it.
“So there’s this writer at Fox News that’s a little bit obsessed with me,” Flint said, winking.