BETHESDA-CHEVY CHASE TRIBUNE
Homosexuality Teacher Issue
A Montgomery County junior high school teacher was removed from his Rockville classroom position to an “alternate work assignment” Wednesday after school system officials learned he had been granted teaching credentials in Pennsylvania Friday where he had earlier waged a legal fight for equal rights for homosexuals. Joseph Acanfora, III, eighth grade earth science teacher at Parkland Junior High School, said he received a letter from deputy superintendent of schools Donald Miedema at the end of the school day Tuesday, telling him to report to the school system’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction for an “alternate work assignment” there after his victory in Pennsylvania made, the New York Times on Sunday.
Calling the Pennsylvania victory “the beginning of problems” here, Acanfora said there is “no reason why I should be taken out of the classroom.” He defended homosexuality as a part of a person’s private life and said under no circumstances would it enter into any classroom discussion he conducted.
He said the Miedema letter said the reassignment “is in no way to be construed as a punitive action,” and that he would be receiving full pay in alternate duties, but that he wants a career in classroom teaching.
“It may not be intended as punitive action,” Acanfora said, “but it’s turning out that way.”
He admitted he hadn’t told County school officials he was a homosexual until last week when he disclosed to his immediate superiors the history of the Pennsylvania certification.
Teacher Protests Transfer
While a student at Pennsylvania State University in February, Acanfora filed suit against the University charging equal rights were denied to homosexuals.
When the suit became news, he was dismissed from his student teaching position at a University Park junior high school but later won reinstatement in court.
On his graduation in June, however, he was confronted with a deadlocked Teachers Certification Council which couldn’t decide whether he met a requirement of Pennsylvania law that teachers be of “good moral character.”
The issue was resolved, at least in Pennsylvania, on Friday when the Secretary of Education John C. Pittenger, announced approval of Acanfora’s teaching credentials. At the same time, Pittenger said he wouldn’t have granted the certification had Acanfora been convicted for homosexual activities, according to the New York Times report.
Acanfora said Tuesday that he didn’t want to go through “the same battle over again,” but that he was talking to American Civil Liberties Union lawyers as well as to the Montgomery County Education Association and the National Education Association.
Asked if he would return to Pennsylvania if he had to to resume classroom teaching, Acanfora pointed out that it’s difficult to get a teaching job once the school year is in session.
Expressing his hope to go back to Parkland, he said, “I got excellent ratings where I student taught.”