ASBURY PARK PRESS
Suit Is Set By Teacher On Ouster
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A Brick Township, N.J. student teacher who was fired from a junior high school. here because he’s a member of a group advocating civil rights for homosexuals, says he’ll file a court suit Tuesday seeking immediate reinstatement.
Park Forest Junior High School officials admit Joseph Acanfora, 102 Sprucewood Drive, Brick Township, was a good teacher. But they said his support of homosexuality was not compatible with the educational policies of the school district.
The 21 year-old college student is the treasurer of Homophiles of Penn State (HOPS), a group that filed a court suit against Pennsylvania State University to force the university to reinstate HOPS’ charter.
TEACHER PLANS SUIT
“The suit has been pending for months,” said Mr. Acanfora in a telephone interview yesterday. “I had no idea it would come up during my student term. I didn’t ask for it to be delayed because it is my right to speak out on any issue I want?”
Mr. Acanfora, who admits he’s a homosexual, began his student teaching assignment when classes resumed after the Christmas vacation last month. He was to have completed the 10-week assignment March 10. The program is required if he is to he certified as a teacher when he graduates in June.
A school spokesman said the decision was based on the view that Mr. Acanfora was a guest and the junior high ‘school a host which disapproved of the guest’s policies.
“At the present time, we don’t feel that the general public would stand still if we allowed this type of person to teach.” the spokesman said.
He admitted, however; that most public opinion expressed so far has favored Mr. Acanfora.
“The verbal people are the ones who organize against things,” he said. “I’m sure we won’t hear much from the others unless he is reinstated or something like that.”
Mr. Acanfora, meanwhile, said some students and their parents are scheduled to attend an on-campus rally for him Monday. And one professor, Dr. Ursula Mueller the HOPS adviser, has resigned from the university in protest of the university’s action.
The student said university officials called the school board to inform them that Mr. Acanfora had been a plaintiff in the suit.
“It will be an important point in our case,” he said. “One of the things we want is for them to stop harassing us. This is certainly harassment.”
HOPS, composed of both homosexuals and heterosexuals, was formed, Mr. Acanfora said to educate the campus community about homosexuals. It said it also wanted to sponsor some social activities, so far limited to dances attended by homosexuals and heterosexuals.
When HOPS was formed, the undergraduate student government approved its charter. But the charter was revoked by the university, which said HOPS conflicted with educational policies.
Although Mr. Acanfora expects to graduate in a few months, he said he was unable to abandon the fight to other HOPS members in lower classes.
It’s very important to me,”\ he said. “I have the choice of sitting back and being. quiet and denying myself the right to live as I want. Or I can live my life as I see fit and if other people don’t like it that’s their problem and they are just going to have to put up with it.”
He was graduated in 1968 from Brick Township High School and was the valedictorian and number one ranked student scholastically in his class. He received a plaque from the Brick Township Education Association for proficiency in history and has been consistently on the dean’s list at the University.
“He has our total support,” said his mother, Mrs. Joseph Acanfora Jr. “I think he has the right to live his life the way he wants to. He does not try to impose his way of living on anyone.”