Homosexuality Flares As School Board Issue



Star-News Staff Writer


Homosexuality along with more traditional topics of students performance, testing, and grading methods and discipline, became an issue at last night’s campaign forum for three Montgomery County school board seats.

The meeting, at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda and attended by nearly 300 citizens, was one in a series of campaign debates attended by the six candidates over the past two months before the Nov. 7 election.

The homosexual group passed out leaflets before the meeting, saying their concern was prompted by the recent transfer of an acknowledged homosexual from his classroom teaching position to an administrative office job.

Members of the Gay Activist Alliance, in the leaflet, urged citizens to petition the school board to have the teacher, Joseph Acanfora, “put back in the classroom.”

Acanfora had been teaching an earth science class until school officials read (in the News York Times) of a suit Acanfora won in Pennsylvania, dealing with homosexuals’ right to receive a teaching certificate.

WHEN QUESTIONED on their opinion about rights of homosexual teachers, the six candidates were reluctant to discuss the issue at length.

Robert Brodie, campaigning on the three-man coalition slate, drew some jeers when he answered, “I feel that these people (homosexuals) are sick and need help. I do not believe they have any place in the classroom.”

Incumbents Thomas Israel and Marillyn Allen both said they were hesitant to give opinions because the school board may have to make policy decisions on the matter.

Thomas Kugel, a member of the Coalition slate with Brodie and Marquis Seidel, said he did not think the school system should be expected to solve “the problems of society that society cannot solve.”

SEIDEL SAID officials would have to first find out “what is inherited or (what is) acquired . . . and see that it (homosexuality) is not taught or passed on.”

Harriet Bernstein, running on the Independent slate with Israel, said she would defer approval of homosexual teachers, “until someone decides whether it is possible to influence (students).”

One of the homosexual spokesmen, Franklin Kameny, contended that 10 percent of Montgomery students “are gay.” Kameny, who ran unsuccessfully for D.C. non-voting delegate two years ago, charged that the Montgomery system is doing nothing to eliminate the bigotry against homosexuality or to provide adequate counseling and resources for homosexual students.


ON ANOTHER matter; the Coalition’ slate accused the present board of not enforcing its own policies and of instituting untested innovative programs.

One point mentioned by Seidel was that of a recently publicized “behavioral modification” program instituted at Montgomery Hills Junior High in Silver Spring without prior approval by the board.

The incumbents did not address the Montgomery Hills program, but accused the Coalition slate of dealing with “non-issues” and of not having “facts.”