Student teaching abruptly halted

HOPS member removed



Collegian Senior Reporter

Friday afternoon, Joseph Acanfora filed suit against the University for violating his constitutional rights as a homosexual -- yesterday morning he was dismissed from his student teaching position.

Acanfora was one of the plaintiffs suing the University in behalf of the Homophiles of Penn State, which claims abridgment of both its First and Fourteenth Amendment freedoms. He was doing his student teaching at the Park Forest Junior High School in State College.

Four of the State College area school district officials directly involved with the case refused to comment.

The Daily Collegian was told that Madison Brewer, head of student teaching at the University, was “out of town” yesterday evening, although he had been in his office earlier in the day to dismiss Acanfora.

In an official statement issued by the State College Area School District, it was the consensus of opinion that the “University should be requested to recall Joseph Acanfora from his assignment as a student teacher in the Park Forest Junior High School. The publicly announced objectives of the organization of which Joseph Acanfora is a member are not compatible with the educational policies of the public school.”

At a press conference last night, John Miller, solicitor for the district, said “the administration is responsible for the conduct of schools and for the policies and procedures recognized by society today.” He said heterosexual, rather than homosexual behavior, is accepted by society.

Acanfora said that 10:30 Monday night he received a call from George Weigand, coordinator for student teaching at the high school, saying he was not to report to Park Forest to teach the following morning, but instead to report to Brewer’s office for a meeting.

“At the meeting they told me that I could no longer teach in the State College Area School District,” Acanfora said.

When he asked for a reason, he was told that Assistant Superintendant of Pupil Personnel Services Donald Cameron had called, saying that a decision had been made.

“I don’t know who made the decision,” Acanfora said, “I don’t know whether it was Penn State or the school board -- they didn’t make it clear.”

“When I asked where that left me as far as student teaching goes, they said they couldn’t make a statement until they received an official reason from Cameron.”

He then got in touch with Mark Schechter from the Undergraduate Student Government Legal Affairs office, and together they went to see Lewis Rodrick, principal of the school.

“Rodrick said that he was aware of the decision and was involved in the discussion that led to it. Unofficially, he said it related to my participation in HOPS, but had nothing to do with the pending lawsuit,” Acanfora said.

Acanfora said he feels the junior high has no reason for forcing him out.

“I feel that my involvement in the HOPS organization or in any group outside of Park Forest Junior High School in no way affects the quality of my teaching in the classroom. I’m there presenting and discussing concepts related to earth science and biology. My ability to teach in these areas is unaffected by my connection to HOPS,” Acanfora emphasized.

Richard Burchill, one of Acanfora’s cooperating teachers, called his student teaching activities “entirely satisfactory.”

It was reported that The Pennsylvania Mirror received more than 20 phone calls last night concerning the discriminatory nature of the firing.