Homosexual Teacher a Hazard in Class, Psychiatrist Says


By Phillip A. McCombs

Washington Post Staff Writer


Two psychiatrist testified in court here today that if Joseph Acanfora III, an avowed homosexual, were allowed to return to his teaching job in the Montgomery County schools, some of his early teenage students could be influenced to become homosexuals.

“There’s always a touch of homosexuality in almost every individual,” testified Dr. Reginald S. Lourie, professor of child health at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

Lourie went on to say that if Acanfora, 22, whose suit to be reinstate to a classroom teaching job is being heard in U.S. District Court, were to teach classes of 13-year-old boys, his self-proclaimed homosexuality would constitute a “hazard’ to their normal sexual development and could rob them of “free choice” of sexual roles.

“What do you mean by free choice?” asked Michael Gottesman, one of Acanfora’s attorneys.

“The human organism wants to he as normal as possible,” answered Lourie. “Nature allows this remaking period (adolescence) so that poor answers can be discarded.”

He said that Acanfora would be an attractive “model’ that some boys in that “vulnerable,” sensitive age-group might choose to pattern themselves after.

He then argued that Acanfora’s presence in the classroom as a model might destroy freedom of choice by leading youngsters toward homosexuality even though Acanfora himself made no overt  sexual approach to them.

Gottesman said later in the proceedings that he would call a psychiatrist who “will testify that the presence of this (homosexual) role model is actually healthy and that society’s failure to provide one actually presents severe emotional disturbances.”

The arguments came in the second day here of Acanfora’s suit against the Montgomery County school board.

Acanfora was hired last year to teach earth sciences to eighth grade students at Parkland Junior High School in Rockville. He had taught only three weeks when school officials removed him from the classroom and placed him in an administrative job in which he has had little direct contact with students.

The removal came after national publicity over Acanfora’s role in a lawsuit involving the Homophiles, a homosexual organization at Pennsylvania State University from which he recently graduated.

Acanfora told Montgomery school officials about his homosexuality following publicity over the lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Lourie and another child psychiatrist, Dr. Felix Heald of the University of Maryland, testified that if Acanfora were not a known or “advertised” homosexual, they would not object to his teaching 13-year-old boys.

They said that if his sexual choice were not known, boys might pattern themselves after Acanfora in other ways but not in terms of sexuality.

Lourie testified he would not mind Acanfora teaching younger children and older, high school children, even as a known homosexual since children at these ages are not as malleable as at the 13-year-old stage.

Younger children are not looking for models to pattern themselves after, and older children seem already to have formed their sexual choices, he testified.

Heald said, he agreed with these view except that he would not want an acknowledged homosexual teaching high school students since persons this age might still be searching for sexual models.

Both witnesses said they has no statistics to back up their testimony because relevant studies on the effects of homosexual teachers had not been made by the psychiatric community.

Both said that the number of students who might actually be influenced by Acanfora would be a small part of any class he might teach.

Heald testifies that among students who might seek out Acanfora as a sexual model would be those already predisposed toward homosexuality or bisexuality.

Gottesman asked Heald whether forcing students predisposed toward homosexuality to take classes from heterosexual teachers was not “imposing on a captive audience persons who might create problems for them.”

“There’s a difference,” answered Heald, “in that generally the sex life of teachers is not known to students. That’s the difference.”

Franklin E. Kameny, president of Washington’s Mattachine Society, a homosexual group, who was a candidate for Congress from the District of Columbia in 1971, was in the audience taking notes.

When Laurie has finished his testimony, Kameny went out in the hallway to argue with him.

“You’re saying models go this way (heterosexually) because this is the way we think they should go,” Kameny said. “The teacher comes into the classroom with a wedding ring and if a kid has that model the kid should have another model that says, “I’m a homosexual.”

The trail being heard by federal Judge Joseph Young without a jury, continues Saturday.