Judge sets March 26 hearing
Acanfora dismissal denied
By RICK NELSON and JEFF DeBRAY
of The Collegian Staff
BALTIMORE, Md. -- Federal District Court Judge Joseph H. Young Friday tentatively set March 26 for hearing the constitutional issues of Joseph Acanfora’s suit against: the : Montgomery County School Board in Maryland after denying the school board’s motion to dismiss the case.
Young was expected to rule on Acanfora’s request for a preliminary injunction returning him to the classroom to await a hearing to decide permanent reinstatement.
But, he said “Both of these issues should be decided at the same time. It would be a more orderly procedure for everyone involved.
Acanfora’s suit claims he was transferred unconstitutionally from his teaching position to an administrative post three days after school officials learned of the challenge that had faced his Pennsylvania teaching certification.
His certification was delayed pending a determination by a board of six university deans on whether homosexuality precluded his satisfying the requirement of “good moral character.’’
Acanfora’s state certification was approved Sept. 22 by State Secretary of Eduation John C. Pittenger after the board deadlocked.
His suit claims “there is rational connection between Acanfora’s private sex beliefs and his ability to teach in the classroom,” according to George H. Cohen, one of his lawyers.
In a sworn affidavit submitted as evidence to the court, Acanfora stated, “My homosexuality has no relevance to my fitness to be an eighth grade science teacher in the Montgomery County Public School.”
Acanfora further claims that the sole reason for the school district’s action was his acknowledged homosexuality.
Robert S. Bourbon, attorney for the school district said, “This was only one of the factors in carrying out the reassignment.”
The school board claims that there was sufficient grounds for his dismissal rather than the transferral because of his failure to state his affiliation with the homophiles of Penn Sate on his application for employment. The school board also charges him with being “militantly activistic” as a result of his appearances on several local television shows defending his position.
Bourbon further said “the defendants would not be involved in this litigation now if Acanfora had admitted he was a homosexual as they would not have hired him in the first place.”
The school district also claims the publicity surrounding the case “would carry its concomitant effect of disruption to the Board’s office schedule and workload.”
The judge recognized the school board’s right to make transfers as it sees fit but questioned the constitutionality of the reasons for Acanfora’s transferal.
Bourbon stated the school board has this right “for any reason or no reason at all,” and the person transferred doesn’t have a constitutional right to a hearing before he may be transferred.
Acanfora said he had expected the injunction to be denied or the hearing postponed, adding “the fact that it wasn’t denied makes me feel very confident of winning the case on the constitutional grounds.”
The hearing next month will involved expert testimony from both sides. Young allotted two days for the hearing.
He said, “This case should be decided on more than mere affidavits alone; because I want to know more than I know now. I want to wrap it up once and for all.