Court Action is anticipated over student teacher removal
By DENISE R. BOWMAN
of The Mirror staff
STATE COLLEGE — The 21-year-old Penn State student teacher who was relieved of his duties at Park Forest Junior High School Tuesday is expected to announce tonight that he will seek a preliminary injunction against the school district.
Joseph Acanfora, the senior who was removed three weeks before completing his ten-week practicum, told The Mirror Wednesday that his attorney expects to file for a preliminary injunction Tuesday to allow him to complete his assignment.
Acanfora was relieved of his student teaching duties Monday night at the request of the school district because the objectives of a group, which currently is suing Penn State and of which he is a member, is “not compatible with the educational policies of the public school,” according to school district statement.
The group in question is “The Other Vision --Homophiles of Penn State” (HOPS), which Acanfora said is “educational in nature” because it provides information about and opportunities for interaction with homosexuals.
Representing HOPS, Acanfora filed an equity suit along with three other students last week against Penn State which charges that the decision to deny the group a student charter was “arbitrary and capricious and directly in Conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment.”
According to HOPS’ attorney in the suit, Leonard I. Sharon, HOPS does not advocate the commission of homosexual acts, which is illegal, but does advocate the reform of local, state and federal sex laws.
“This organization is just as much for ‘straights’ (heterosexuals) as ‘gays’ (homosexuals),” Sharon said. “According to some of the insane sex laws on the books, about 95 per cent of the couples in Pennsylvania could be arrested and prosecuted.”
Acanfora said the rationale behind seeking court action over his removal is one of professionalism. “I am a senior and I’m supposed to graduate in June,” he said. “I cannot be certified if I do not satisfactorily complete my student teaching and I have three and one-half weeks to go.
Attorney Sharon told The Mirror Wednesday that “it’s frightening to think that a young man can lose his whole semester, lose his certification and have his profession destroyed based on a subjective decision on what the dominant views of society are.”
The Pittsburgh-based attorney said the “retribution, as evidenced by the school’s decisions,” is evidence of the constitutional nature of the case. “Is outside opinion of a minority group sufficient grounds for denying that group its rights?” he asked.
Meanwhile, reaction to the school district’s move was varied. Although the district received only three calls Wednesday, a school district official said, “you don’t know about the numbers of people who have thoughts relative to this case and just didn’t do anything.”
The district spokesman said all three calls received objected to the district’s decision.
In the Park Forest school, according to one eighth grade student, petitions supporting Acanfora were circulated among both teachers and students Wednesday. “A lot of people signed them,” he said, “but some didn’t because they were afraid they’d get in trouble.”
John. Ford, president of the State College Area Education Association (SCAEA) and a teacher at the junior high, said the teachers’ association had instigated no petitions in the matter and did not plan to intercede, as a group, in the student’s behalf.
Ford said he had “heard something” about a teachers’ petition but added that he had not seen it. Asked if he had heard any reaction to the incident, Ford said he could not speak for the other teachers but added that the matter had been discussed Wednesday morning.