Justices Get Gay Ex-Teacher’s Plea


By Calvin Zon

Star-News Staff Writer


Joseph Acanfora had just begun his first year of teaching, as an earth science instructor at Parkland Junior High School in Rockville when suddenly he was plucked out of his classroom and placed inside an office in the administration building of the Montgomery County school system.

School officials made the transfer when they learned from a news article that Acanfora had been active in a homosexual rights group at Pennsylvania State University.

The news item concerned Acanfora’s official certification as a teacher by Pennsylvania’s secretary of. Education who broke a 3-3 deadlock on the controversial question among the deans at Penn State.

ALTHOUGH Acanfora’s homosexuality had not been known to persons at Parkland, county school officials said they made the transfer because they feared his possible influence on students.

School officials repeated1y denied his requests to be returned to the classroom and at the end of the school year in June 1973, they abolished the special position which had been created for him in the curriculum department and refused to renew his contract.

Acanfora, 24, has been in court ever since trying to get his teaching job back.  His suit having been rejected by two federal courts, last month he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case. A high court decision on whether to hear it is expected in the fall

ALTHOUGH both courts said that mere knowledge that a teacher is a homosexual does not justify transfer or dismissal, they upheld the action of the school administrators and school board.

The U S District Court in Baltimore ruled in June 1973 that Acanfora was not entitled to reinstatement because be “took his case to the people” after his transfer, with “publicity” that included a network television interview. Thus he showed. “an indifference to the bounds of propriety,” the court said.

The “publicity” and “propriety” rationale was rejected by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found another basis for his dismissal in its ruling in February.

THE APPEAL court ruled against Acanfora because he failed to list his membership in the Penn State Homophile group in the extracurricular organizations portion of his Montgomery teaching application. Last week the state Board of Education, with one dissenting vote, gave the same reason for upholding the county school board decision.

Michael J. Gottesman, Acanfora’s attorney, believes the case can be won in the high court because he says it can be shown that school officials “didn’t transfer him because he didn’t reveal it (his previous affiliation), but because he was a homosexual.”