6 PS deans to decide on Acanfora certification
By DENISE R. BOWMAN
of The Mirror staff
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Time is running out for Joseph Acanfora.
With 10 days remaining before he is due to graduate, Acanfora -- who made headlines this winter over his affiliation with the Homophiles of Penn State HOPS -- does not know if he will be permitted to teach in Pennsylvania.
The 21-year-old secondary education major told The Mirror Tuesday night that the six-man council which has been meeting since May 15 on the question of his moral character had, as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, reached no decision.
According to the Public School Code, one of the prerequisites for receiving a teaching certificate is that “satisfactory evidence of good moral character” be presented to the superintendent of public instruction.
At Penn State, usually the dean of the college which grants the teaching degree supplies this evidence to the state. According to a Penn State spokesman, if a dean has any doubts about a particular student, the matter is turned over to the six-man University Teaching Certification Council (UTCC).
The council is composed of the deans of the colleges of liberal arts, science, arts and architecture, agriculture, education and health, physical education and recreation.
Acanfora, who is a member of the HOPS group and a plaintiff in an equity suit against Penn State, was removed from -- and subsequently reinstated by court order to -- his student teaching assignment at the Park Forest Junior High School earlier this winter. HOPS, according to its constitution. was formed as an education group about homosexuality and homosexual behavior. It was denied a student charter last fall by the then acting ice president for student affairs Raymond O. Murphy.
On the basis of that denial, two non-members and two members of HOPS filed an equity suit against Penn State in Centre County court.
At the time the suit was filed, Acanfora was on a student teaching assignment at the Park Forest School.
The school district requested that Penn State recall Acanfora because “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.”
The matter was taken to court and Acanfora was reinstated to his practice teaching assignment at the junior high school.
Acanfora received a “B” for his ten-week student teaching practicum and maintains a 3.36 grade point average. A 4.0 is a straight-A average at Penn State.
The six-man UTCC has held at least three meetings on the matter of Acanfora’s certification -- the latest of which adjourned Tuesday afternoon with no decision reached, Acanfora said.
He said he received a letter from the council which renewed its invitation to him to reappear before the group to give additional testimony.
The topics for discussion at this next meeting -- which, Acanfora said would be scheduled at a mutuallv agreed upon time -- also were outlined in the letter. Among them, he said, were:
-- Whether statements attributed to him in a particular issue of the student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, concerning his sexual orientation were true;
-- Whether he would publicly advocate certain behavior and attitudes favoring homosexuality while employed as a teacher;
-- What, in his opinion, the relationship was between homosexuality and candidate’s qualification as a teacher and;
-- Any other related matters.
Acanfora said Tuesday night that he would respond to the topics in the letter, but said he did not know whether the response wou1d be in person or in writing.
He said he had declined to attend previous meetings, on the advice of his attorney Leonard Sharon of Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, HOPS members conducted a “mini-laboratory” outside of the building where the council met Tuesday.
According to HOPS member Nancy Thomas, the group circulated copies of a letter to the UTCC and solicited supporting signatures. Miss Thomas said more than 50 such letters were given to the dean of the College of Education, Abram W. VanderMeer, Tuesday.
She said HOPS members planned to set up an information table today at the foot of the Mall at College Avenue to distribute leaflets concerning Acanfora’s case and to solicit more signatures •