Parkland Parents React To Gay Teacher


By Alice Booth

Sentinel Reporter


Before last night, it seemed that even homosexuality couldn’t create a cause celebre in Montgomery County.

When Joseph Acanfora was •suddenly transferred from his classroom at Parkland Junior High School to a position in the central office a few weeks ago after a newspaper article revealed his homosexuality, Parkland parents didn’t react. Neither the school principal, the PTA, nor Acanfora himself received an emotional letter or phone call; parents were not even discussing the case with each other.

“There’s been no word from parents at all,” Acanfora said Tuesday.  “In the last two years, people have learned what homosexuality is about, and they are a lot more understanding. There never would have been this silence five years ago.”

Tuesday night, however, at a Parkland PTA meeting, a more accurate portrait of parental feelings emerged.  Although Acanfora’s case, which is now in Federal court, was not on the PTA agenda, showing of sex education films for parental review was and it was this quirk of fate that finally broke the mysterious silence.

After a series of questions, discussion arose concerning the morality of the films and teacher attitudes toward sex education. A parent stood up and shouted, “How am I supposed to know a teachers attitude? We’re all aware of this lawsuit. I don’t want a homosexual teaching my boy sexual behavior.”

Flood of Comments

Then the stream of comments began. “It’s always shocking when you find out someone isn’t straight.” “There are bad apples in all walks of life.” “I could tell you a lot about homosexuals that would curl your ears. As far as I am concerned, I don’t want any of those 61 teachers who signed the petition supporting Acanfora teaching my child because their attitudes are different from mine.”

Principal Guy R. Smith successfully quelled the discussion by commenting that the case was in the hands of the court. “We’re law abiding citizens, and we have to wait for the court to make a decision,” he stressed.

But he slipped in one additional comment: “I personally feel what I do outside the school has to do with what I do within it.”