THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Homosexual Granted Teaching Credential
By HOWARD S. SHAPIRO
Inquirer State Reporter
HARRISBURG -- Education Secretary John Pittenger set a Pennsylvania precedent Friday by approving public school teaching credentials for a homosexual.
The education chief told reporters that he based his decision to certify Joseph Acanfora, 22, a Penn State graduate from Brick Town, N. J., “on Mr. Acanfora’s performance as a student and in his capacity as a student teacher.”
The controversial issue wound up in Pittenger’s lap after a six-member panel of Penn State deans voted three-to-three last spring on the question of whether to certify Acanfora as a junior high school science teacher.
The mustachioed student, who, graduated with A-minus grades in June, was an officer of Homophiles of Penn State (HOPS), a student civil rights group for homosexuals.
The deans could not reach a decision on whether Acanfora was “known as a person of good moral character,” a requisite on the teacher certification form.
“THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE of homosexual acts on the part of Mr. Acanfora,” Pittenger ruled Friday. “He has not been convicted of any criminal violation .
Pittenger said the certification question arose because of the student’s association with the student homosexual organization.
“We cannot deny teaching certificates on a theory of guilt by association, nor may we react in a manner which infringes upon free speech,” he said.
Acanfora was removed from a student teaching job in State College last spring when the university’s College of Education officials learned he was active in HOPS. Student sympathizers demonstrated when Acanfora filed suit against Penn State, and college officials reinstated him within a week.
SEVERAL WEEKS LATER, the deans’ split vote on Acanfora’s teacher certification marked the first time the state was confronted with establishing a policy on homosexual teachers.
In an interview with the deans, Acanfora refused to answer when they asked for an explicit description of his sexual activities.