Teacher’s Alleged Involvement at Capitol Protest Draws Scrutiny

Following+the+capitol+protests%2C+photos+of+CUSD+teacher+Kristine+Hostetter+at+the+capitol+protests+on+January+6th+were+released+on+the+internet.+While+CUSD+declined+to+make+a+comment+on+the+investigation%2C+parents+of+her+class+have+confirmed+Hostetter+has+not+been+in+her+classroom+since+the+protests.

Photo Courtesy of CUSD Against Racism

Following the capitol protests, photos of CUSD teacher Kristine Hostetter at the capitol protests on January 6th were released on the internet. While CUSD declined to make a comment on the investigation, parents of her class have confirmed Hostetter has not been in her classroom since the protests.

Nikki Iyer, Feature Editor

As new information concerning the recent capitol protests and breach are revealed, video evidence of a CUSD teacher, Kristine Hostetter, allegedly attending the protests with her husband, Alan Hostetter was released on the internet.

However, the videos fail to prove decisively if Mrs. Hostetter, a 4th grade teacher at Vista Del Mar, was involved in criminal activity at the capitol.

Mrs. Hostetter’s husband founded the American Phoenix Project, a local right-wing organization that formed at the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdowns. In May, her husband hosted a protest against COVID-19 shutdowns, where he was arrested due to his attempt to disassemble a fence blocking off a beach parking lot in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In November, he allegedly organized an anti-mask rally in San Clemente as a response to Governor Newsom’s actions to combat COVID-19, where protestors burned masks while holding American and Trump flags. 

In a video posted to her husband’s instagram account, Mrs. Hostetter is seen holding an American flag, marching towards the Ellipse in Washington D.C. 

“We are not actually going to be going into the ellipse because we have some personal protective gear and backpacks and things of that nature that they won’t allow in so we’re going to get as close as we can,” her husband stated in the video. He then continues to declare, “1776 again,” alluding to the American Revolution.

Another video posted to Twitter shows Russ Taylor, a member of the board at American Phoenix Project, much closer to the capitol. In the morning, at the beginning of the march, Taylor is seen walking with Hostetter and her husband. However, it is unclear if Mrs. Hostetter was still with Taylor when they were closer to the Capitol. In regards to the Capitol’s security, Taylor said, “We hear something of such that the barricades have been breached.” In the background of the video, others can be heard yelling, “Trump won USA.”

Mrs. Hostetter’s husband also posted a video (now removed) from the capitol balcony to his Instagram account. In the video, he allegedly stands on the building as he shifts his camera to display the large crowds below him. However, it is unclear if Mrs. Hostetter was on the balcony with her husband.

Throughout the protest neither Hostetter, her husband, nor any fellow protestors appeared to be following COVID-19 guidelines, as they marched maskless, and in close proximity to one another.

Alan Hostetter's Instagram

In response to Mrs. Hostetter’s alleged actions, student activist group CUSD Against Racism created a petition on January 8th, with the intention to “hold CUSD Teacher Kristine Hostetter accountable”. As of January 20th, the petition has received over 6,000 signatures.

The petition included three main demands:

“The District continue their investigation into this case and ensures Mrs. Hostetter is not permitted to teach students throughout this investigation.

Following the investigation, if criminal activity is confirmed, Mrs. Hostetter should be removed from the classroom. Additionally, we call on CUSD to release a public statement condemning the U.S Capitol breach and any CUSD employee involvement. It must be asserted that what happened on January 6th was not acceptable, nor was it aligned with the values we teach in our classrooms.”

Following the release of their petition, on January 9th, CUSD released a public statement to families of CUSD denouncing the insurrection at the capitol. 

Superintendent Kristen Vital-Brulte wrote in the email, “Breaking into the halls of Congress, destroying property, and threatening the safety of our elected representatives, law enforcement and innocent bystanders in an attempt to disrupt a nearly 250-year-old tradition of the orderly transition of presidential power does not constitute peaceful protesting. It is not acceptable in a democratic society. It is not what we teach the children in our schools.” 

Breaking into the halls of Congress, destroying property, and threatening the safety of our elected representatives, law enforcement and innocent bystanders in an attempt to disrupt a nearly 250-year-old tradition of the orderly transition of presidential power does not constitute peaceful protesting. It is not acceptable in a democratic society. It is not what we teach the children in our schools”

— Brulte

A representative from CUSD Against Racism said the organization is glad CUSD made a statement to denounce the Capitol breach, but they don’t believe it went far enough.

“We believe the District’s statement should have also explicitly denounced the white supremacy and antisemitism that was so clearly present at the riots. In addition, the statement should have made clear that they don’t support any potential staff involvement in the insurrection of the Capitol,” said the representative who declined to be named.

In addition, CUSD Against Racism’s petition cites the California Department of Public Health when arguing Hostetter continuing to teach is unsafe for families in terms of COVID-19, due to the large, mask-less crowd at the protest.

CUSD Against Racism

“All persons arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries, should self-quarantine for 10 days after arrival, except as necessary to meet urgent critical healthcare staffing needs or to otherwise engage in emergency response,” wrote the California Department of Public Health.

On January 12th, Assistant Principal, Darrin Jindra, sent an all staff email to San Juan Hills teachers reminding them of the limits on their ability to participate in political activity as an employee of the district. The email was a resend of guidelines issued by CUSD at the outset of the school year in late August sent to all teachers by chief communications officer, Ryan Burris.

“An employee is free to engage in political activity outside of working hours, and off school premises, but should make sure their words or actions are not interpreted as representing the district,” wrote Brulte in the cover letter to the document.

However, Mrs. Hostetter’s alleged activity was during a school day, during “working hours.”

A spokesperson for Capistrano Unified Education Associates (CUEA) said, “All members are protected so that details of any investigation or leaves are not made public. We don’t put teachers on public trial, they get due process. It’s a district matter, not a CUEA matter.”

An article that appeared in The Triton Times of San Clemente High School said that parents of Hostetter’s class say she has not been in her classroom since the protest.

CUSD’s Chief Communications Officer, Ryan Burris, declined to comment on the investigation.