THE WASHINGTON POST

4-15-73

 

2 Say Homosexual Teacher Would Benefit Male Pupils

 

By Grayson Mitchell

Washington Post Staff Writer

BALTIMORE, April 14 -- Two specialists in teen-age sexuality testified in court here today that to allow avowed homosexual Joseph Acanfora to return to his Montgomery County teaching duties would benefit, and not harm his young male students.

Dr. William R. Stayton, psychologist and sex counselor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, testified that the teacher’s presence in the junior high school classroom would be beneficial to heterosexually inclined boys in “breaking down homosexual stereotypes” and would “affirm the self-image” of that small minority of homosexually inclined boys.

For those boys straddling the fence, yet/unsure of their sexual preferences, Stayton testified that having an avowed homosexual in a position of authority would assist sexually insecure 13-year-olds in coming to grips with their own problems.

Stayton and Dr. Stanford B. Friedman, pediatrician and professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of’ Medicine, agreed that Acanfora would not influence his teen-age students to become homosexuals.

The two witnesses appeared on behalf of Acanfora, 22, whose civil suit against the Montgomery County board of education to be reinstated to his teaching job went through its third day of hearings here today in U.S. District Court.

Acanfora was hired last year to teach-eighth grade earth sciences at Parkland Junior High School in Rockville. He had taught only three weeks when he told school officials he was homosexual. He was then transferred to an administrative post.

The testimony given by witnesses for the plaintiff contradicted point-for-point the testimony of two doctors who appeared Friday for the Montgomery school board.

The doctors’ testifying Friday agreed that Acanfora’s presence in the classroom would be a model that some boys in that adolescent age group might find attractive and emulate.

As a model, the psychiatrists argued Acanfora might rob the students of freedom of choice by leading youngsters toward homosexuality, even though Acanfora himself made no overt sexual approach to them.

Dr. Reginald S. Lourie, a psychiatrist and professor of child health at the George Washington University School of Medicine testified Friday that he would not oppose Acanfora teaching boys in lower grades or in senior high school, even as known or “publicized” homosexual, but that children in their early teens are the most malleable.

Drs. Stayton and Friedman testified today that contrary to popular assumption, youngsters by the ages of 5 or 6 will have already chosen “their basic sexual orientation” and experiences during their adolescent deve1opment only serve to “affirm or reject” their earlier sexual proclivities.

Moreover, Dr. Friedman questioned the degree of influence Acanfora or any teacher, has upon students in a school environment.

He testified he felt adolescents were more influenced in sexual matters by parents and other conditions away from school. Students do regard teachers as models, he said, but more in measuring their own self-images and ideals than patterning their behavior.

When questioned by a school: board lawyer, Dr. Friedman said “strong, domineering women teachers” pose a greater threat to the sexual adjustment of young, impressionable boys. He explained that young boys, chafing under the rule of a stern woman, could conceivably turn to other males for affection, having acquired a fear or dislike for all females.

Acanfora received national publicity over his role in a lawsuit involving a homosexual organization at Pennsylvania State University, from which he had recently graduated.

Acanfora told Montgomery County school officials of his homosexuality after the publicity.

The nonjury trial, being heard by Judge Joseph H. Young, is to continue Monday.