THE WASHINGTON POST

6-1-73

 

Schools Upheld On Homosexual

Md. Teacher Loses Bid to Stay in Class

 

By Philip A. McCombs:

Washington Post Staff Writer

 

A federal judge in Baltimore yesterday upheld the right of Montgomery County school officials to transfer an avowed homosexual teacher, Joseph Acanfora III, into an administrative job so he would have no day-to-day contact with students.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Young wrote in a 3O-page opinion issued yesterday that the chances’ of Acanfora influencing his eighth-grade students toward homosexuality “is not illusory.”

Young wrote that consenting adults have a constitutional right to practice homosexuality in private and to talk about it in public, but that “the instruction of children carries with it special responsibilities whether the teacher be homosexual or heterosexual.”

Those special responsibilities require that a homosexual not identify himself in public as such so that his students know he is a homosexual, the judge wrote.

He wrote that if Acanfora were not publicly known as a homosexual the school system would have no constitutional right to transfer him.

“There exists . . .not only a right of privacy, so strongly urged by (Acanfora), but also a duty of privacy,” wrote Young.

Acanfora’s attorneys are expected to appeal the decision. They argued in the trial in April “that if heterosexual teachers can wear wedding rings and proclaim their sexual preferences in other ways, homosexual teachers ought to have the same-rights.

Acanfora, 22, was an eight-grade earth science teacher at Parkland Junior High School in Rockville until Sept. 26, 1972, when school officia1s discovered that he received nationa1 publicity in connection with a homosexual organization at Pennsylvania State University.

Acanfora told Montgomery County school officials about his homosexua1ity after the publicity in Pennsylvania, and they transferred him to an administrative job.

Acanfora then sued the school board to reinstate him to his teaching position claiming that his civil rights were violated by the arbitrary transfer.

While Acanfora at no time discussed his homosexuality with his students, he did appear on television shows to defend his position, according to testimony during the trial.

Much of the trial before Young centered on conflicting testimony; by chi1d psychiatrists over what, if any, effect on children an avowed homosexual teacher might have.

Alluding to the testimony, Young wrote that although a child’s sexual identity is mostly formed by the time he enters eighth grade, “the book is by no means closed on the possible behaviora1 and. socio-cultural impact” that a homosexual teacher might have at that stage of development.

“A finding that sexual. orientation is in large part disposed by age 5 or. 6” does not preclude an incremental effect of  a teacher on a bisexual adolescent,” wrote Young.

Although speculation has drifted to the numerous possible positive and negative effects different kinds of teachers may have on particular students, the court cannot ignore the specific danger noted by (the school board).

“The danger does not seem as great or as likely, as (the school board) assumed, but it is not illusory.”

With respect to Acanfora’s television appearances, Young wrote:

‘The point is, that to some extent, every teacher has to go out of his way to hide his private life and that a homosexual teacher is not at liberty to ignore or hold in contempt the sensitivity of the subject to the school community.

“A sense of discretion and self restraint must guide him to avoid speech or activity likely to spark the added public controversy which detracts from the educational process.”