Homosexual Teacher Sues Montgomery Board Over Transfer


By Richard M. Cohen

Washington Post Staff Writer

A Montgomery County junior high school teacher filed suit in federal court yesterday contending that he was unconstitutionally transferred to a non-teaching position because he is an avowed homosexual.

The suit, filed in Baltimore by Joseph Acanfora III, a 22-year-old graduate of Pennsylvania State University, followed his transfer last Sept. 26 from Parkland Junior High School in Rockvil1e to board of education headquarters where he was made a curriculum specialist. He had been teaching earth science.

The transfer was order, sources in the school administration said, because school officials feared community reaction and wished to keep the issue out: of the school board race. The transfer was made, these sources said, when an account of Acanfora’s difficulties in obtaining teaching credentials in Pennsylvania was reported in the New York Times.

That story, sources said, nearly coincided with the rape of a 13-year-old girl at Julius West Junior High School in Rockville, which was blamed by some parents on the school sex education curriculum. The four youths arrested in the rape, some parents charged, had been sexually excited by sex education courses.

As a result, schools officials feared a reoccurrence of the antisex education movement that has centered in the Rockville area and that Acanfora would add fuel to the controversy, according to the sources.

Officially, however, the school administration told Acanfora that he was being transferred while his teaching credentials were investigated and that his assignment to headquarters was only temporary. A school board spokesman conceded that “there was never any question about his teaching ability.”

Acanfora ran into similar difficulties in Pennsylvania while teaching as a student there. When his activities in a campus homosexual organization became known, he was suspended as a teacher in the town of State College, but was reinstated within a week.

After graduation, the university’s certification council deadlocked 3 to 3 over whether Acanfora could meet the requirement of “good moral character.” The state education secretary finally granted Acanfora his certification – an action that resulted in the New York Times story.

Kenneth Muir, a spokesman for the Montgomery county school board, said that the superintendent has always had the authority to transfer and assign teachers and that state law says nothing about due process. He pointed out that Acanfora’s transfer did not affect his salary, which remained the same.

In his suit, Acanfora contends that he was transferred for “constitutionally impermissible” reasons violating his rights under the 14th Amendment. He was joined in his suit by the National Education Association and its Maryland and Montgomery County affiliates. The NEA branch in the county is the bargaining agent for the teachers.

Acanfora said in an interview that his known homosexuality never created problems with either parents or students when he was teaching in Pennsylvania. The issue there, he said, was reported in the local papers.

“it was no problem,” he said. “I think the students respected me more.  I got tremendous support from the parents, too