60 MINUTES

Volume V, Number 12

CBS TELEVISION NETWORK

Sunday, February 25, 1973

6:00 – 7:00 PM, EST

 

With CBS News Correspondents Morley Safer and Mike Wallace

 

PRODUCED BY CBS NEWS

 

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Don Hewitt

MIKE WALLACE:Thomas Pike would seem to be the man who had everything, He was a Pentagon official under President Eisenhower, a millionaire industrialist, he had a happy family.

THOMAS PIKE:But here was this damnable kind of a gnawing fear that maybe I was losing my grip or I was losing my health or maybe my mind was slipping or in some way I was suffering some sort of a disintegration that I couldn’t understand. I had excellent physical health, there wasn’t any medical background on this,

WALLACE:Depression. What is it? Who gets it? What can be done about it” Some answers tonight on 60 MINUTES.

MORLEY SAFER:What makes this man so undesirable as a teacher of public-school children? His credentials are excellent. Yet he has been removed from the classroom. The suburban community of Rockville, Maryland, is divided on the question of this man’s life and its effect on their children. Tonight on 60 MINUTES: “The Case of Joe Acanfora”.

WALLACE:What does a geisha party amount to? Sing a few songs, tell a few jokes, trade a little gossip, get a little high and … and nothing. The gentlemen don’t even get to take the geisha home.

SAFER:I’m Morley Safer.

WALLACE:I’m Mike Wallace. Those stories and more, tonight on 60 MINUTES, First, these headline items:

  • Cambodian communists have launched a nationwide offensive said to be the largest ever undertaken by the Khmer Rouge. And the American air war has been stepped up to counteract it, U.S.-52’s went into action at the request of the Cambodian Government.
  • The AFL-CIO called today for an excess-profits tax and for abolition of the seven-percent investment tax credit “in the interest of equity” they say, “during this period of government restraint on wages.
  • And baseball’s spring training camps will open on schedule next Thursday, The owners and the players finally reached agreement on a three-year contract this morning.

60 MINUTES continues in a moment,

“THE CASE OF JOE ACANFORA”

SAFER:Two days ago a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland began to consider the dilemma of a man who is fighting to get back the job he was hired for. The case has broad ramifications for a minority group which may number as high as 10 percent of the population. More than the career of one man is at issue here, What may be on trial is the right of any person to hold a job, regardless of the nature of his or her private life, The drama is being played out in a suburban community of 40,000 - 16 miles from Washington.

This is Parkland Junior High School, Montgomery County, Rockville, Maryland. Last September the school hired a new teacher, a young graduate of Penn State University. His name is Joe Acanfora and he was hired to teach eighth-grade science. But a month after he began, the school board relieved him of his classroom duties and put him into a behind-the-scenes job where he would have no contact with children, And they went further: they told Joe Acanfora he could not enter the school if there were children present.

The school board claims it was simply exercising its right to transfer personnel as it sees fit. Joe Acanfora says he was relieved of his classroom duties because he is a homosexual. But Joe Acanfora wants to teach - so much so that he is now suing the school board for violating his constitutional rights

ACANFORA:Many of my friends have asked me why I’m doing this, why I just don’t go someplace and be a teacher and not let the gayness enter into it at all. But the fact is that I’m gay - just like the fact is that other teachers are straight or heterosexual. And I’m sure a heterosexual teacher isn’t going to live his life a complete lie and hide what he is and I have no intentions of doing that either. I have every right to be what I am. I have every right to be a teacher. And I plan on doing both.

SAFER:Acanfora does not flaunt his homosexuality, neither does he hide it. As an undergraduate at Penn State he took part in a gay activist organization, signed a petition, and that later was his undoing. Pennsylvania authorities refused to grant him a teaching certificate. He sued and won. But, by then he was already teaching in Maryland. When the case was reported in the papers, it was seen by Montgomery County officials and Acanfora was removed from class

Joe Acanfora is 22. He comes from Bricktown, New Jersey. His father is a truck driver who, when he learned of his son’s homosexuality, said, “I loved him then, I love him now.” Parkland school officials and the county board of education refused to discuss the case of Joe Acanfora. Parents are divided on the question of homosexuals in the classroom. The minister at Montrose Baptist Church, nearby, is the Reverend Robert Crowley. He reinforces his own views with Holy Scripture.

CROWLEY:Here is a man who has openly come out defying the laws of God and the moral standards of the Judeo-Christian ethic. And so what are we supposed to do? Open the door and let him go right back in the classroom? I say absolutely not. We should treat this person as an individual for who Jesus Christ died for and loves, but at the same time, we have a whole classroom of pupils who likewise need to be taught and protected and shielded from this kind of homosexuality.

SAFER:Would teachers themselves agree with this opinion? We asked three of them how the Parkland faculty reacted to Joe Acanfora’s removal from the classroom.

WOMAN TEACHER:We took around a teacher petition. It was from the professional staff and it said that we thought that his removal was unjust. And 61 out of 83 teachers signed the petition, meaning that they were in agreement that they thought it was unjust.

MAN TEACHER 1:I think any time somebody’s civil rights are violated for any reason, you begin to feel threatened, because you begin to feel that your civil rights may be violated at some time.

SAFER:What was he like as a teacher?

MAN TEACHER 2:He was doing a good job in the short time I was able to observe him - planned well, had good objectives, prepared well in advance, no complaints.

MAN TEACHER 1:He just -- he was just a nice fellow, you know? And the kids saw him that way. And I don’t -- I think that if somebody were to imitate Joe, it would be to imitate him in this nice manner that he has.

GIRL STUDENT:I don’t know - just something about him. I mean, he knew how kids thought, - ‘cause he just --

BOY STUDENT 1:He acted like he was a kid once, too, you know? Like, you know, he treated us like people - not, you know, just like little kids.

GIRL:I didn’t even know he was - We didn’t even know he was homosexual until it was in the papers and all -- until he got kicked out of class and couldn’t teach any more.

SAFER:When he was let go, did the school tell you why?

STUDENTS:No.

GIRL:They tried to hide it from everybody, you know. Like it was hush-hush and all this stuff.

SAFER:Tell us about that. Tell me about that.

GIRL:Well, like we went to see our counselor, me and some of the other people, and she didn’t -- you know, she didn’t really want to talk about it. Like we said we wanted to get a petition around. She said, “Well, I’m sorry. This isn’t going to do any good, you know. You might as well just not worry about it. There’s nothing you can do,”

SAFER:What happened to the petition?

BOY 1:Well, we got them into the board of education, but they probably-- you know, I think they just threw them away, you know - didn’t even bother with them. Like they probably thought, well, a bunch of kids [indistinct: cross talk) about the kids, you know, what do they have to do with it? She acted like it was a sin.

GIRL:My mom, you know, she can’t really understand it and I feel the same way -- why they should pull a guy out of the school if he’s a teacher. And he told me once that he really liked to teach. Because lots of times I’d stay after school too, and he said he really enjoyed teaching. This was really his first year in this new school, you know, and he said he really liked it a lot. And that got me mad because they took him out of there and he didn’t -- never did anything to any student. If he attacked a student or something, you know, that would be different. Yeah, then you couldn’t keep him in school if he tried to do something. But he didn’t do anything and he was really a good teacher. I don’t understand why they took him out.

SAFER:Dan, have your parents talked about it?

BOY STUDENT 2(DAN):Well, not very much, but, you know, it’s his own life. As long as he doesn’t do anything to the students or anything like that, it’s all right.

SAFER:Do you know what a homosexual is?

STUDENTS:Yes.

BOY 1:Yes, I know,

SAFER:What?

BOY 1:He likes the men rather than women.

SAFER:Is there a lot of sniggering and jokes about it?

DAN:Well, there is a couple, but, you know, it’s going to stop after a while.

SAFER:Mrs. Clara Laubham and Mrs. Sherri Paskell are the parents of daughters at Parkland School. They feel the school board’s action was unjust. And even if the Acanfora case had involved a woman, a lesbian, they say they would have felt the same.

MRS. LAUBHAM:His influence on my child was good. I mean she came home interested in her science class, eager for the next day, and to me this is a teacher and this is all that I look for in a teacher. I’m interested in a good teacher for the kids and I saw every indication that he was exactly that. She really enjoyed him as a teacher in his class. His private life - I didn’t know anything about it, and I didn’t care. I mean I don’t care about the other teachers. I don’t go make a check on all the teachers to see what they do after they leave school.

MRS. PASKELL:I was sorry to see him dismissed. She seemed to be happy with her class. And I think it was pretty unfair .

SAFER:But what about the principle of a homosexual teaching your children? Does that bother you - the idea?

MRS. PASKELL:It doesn’t bother me, no. The reason it doesn’t bother me is because there were no incidents at school. If there were incidents at school, it would bother me. But it would bother me if there were an incident with a teacher who wasn’t homosexual, as well.

MRS. LAUBHAM:I don’t see why a good teacher should not be allowed to teach. He likes it, he’s good at it, we need good teachers. Probably have a lot of doctors and dentists, ministers, whatever, who are probably homosexuals too, but just haven’t had to publicly admit it. And I don’t think it’s affected the good that they do in the areas that they’ve chosen to work.

MRS. PASKELL:If I went to apply for a job myself, I’m sure they wouldn’t ask me in detail what I do in the bedroom. And if they did, I wouldn’t tell them. And I don’t think it’s anyone business - anyone’s business but his own. And for them to go into his private life and make a turmoil of his private life and have it affect his chosen profession is extremely unfair.

SAFER:Not all parents thought it was unfair. We talked to Elizabeth Crowley, who’s a parent and a teacher, and to Henry Cheng.

CHENG:Now, in this particular case -- and I know a person who professed to be a homosexual is in the school where my children attend, there is a very good probability a closer, a personal, relationship is or has been established between this man and my child. Now, this kind of relationship, I as a parent, I don’t think is desirable.

MRS. CROWLEY:Remember, children don’t have a choice about whether they’re going to school. They have to go to school. Therefore it gives us a double responsibility what we put in front of them. But I think that we are modeling behavior all the time by what we do, as well as by what we say or teach in the classroom. And I think that there are definite overtones that children will catch - yes, particularly children of today.

SAFER:There is an intimate relationship in a classroom, surely a very close relationship. Isn’t there a sort of sexual trap already there in school that gets complicated when a homosexual factor is introduced to it?

MALE TEACHER:I really think that if the personality is strong enough - which Joe has - that they-- that the person can get out of this type of a trap, so to speak. By simply walking away from it and not saying anything more about it. And this is the type of person Joe is. He doesn’t try to sway anybody’s views or swing anybody over to homosexualism.

SAFER:The school officials refused, on advice of counsel, to accept a number of invitations by 60 MINUTES to discuss the case. But we’ve learned that the school board has a policy of not knowingly hiring homosexuals as teachers. Had Acanfora never admitted to being a homosexual, it’s likely they would not have made an issue of it. So they chose to get Joe Acanfora out of the classroom in the fear of having a homosexual in daily contact with boys of an impressionable age. In short, they decided to be cautious.

Do you feel that your private or your public life indeed might corrupt a young person?

ACANFORA:No, I have never brought my private life into the classroom - my sexuality or any other part of my private life into the classroom - or discussed sexuality with any of my students, either here or in Pennsylvania. And so, in fact, I would say I’ve never even talked to other teachers about it, and there was no way--known in the school system that I was gay until the school system decided to transfer me.

SAFER:Now, on your application, when you were applying for the job in Montgomery County, why did you omit to say that you had belonged to a homosexual organization?

ACANFORA:I put down those things on my application which I thought were relevant to my capacity to be a teacher - to show my effectiveness as a teacher in the classroom. And I didn’t consider that relevant to my teaching abilities in the classroom. Just as I omitted many other things - that I was a registered Democrat, that I was a member of the swim team. I just put down those things which were relevant to my teaching abilities.

SAFER:So you’re not flaunting something in this whole affair, in this legal case?

ACANFORA:No, I never have, I never went out of my way to say: “Here I am, a homosexual. What are you going to do with me?” But I’ve never gone out of my way to hide it, either. It’s just - I’m living what I am and people are dealing with it.

REV. CROWLEY:Now, I would not want to have a teacher in the classroom in our community as one whom God has given up and a man who has outwardly and openly avowed his homosexuality is one who is living under the condemnation of God. Now, the Bible gets even more specific. These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie. God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions. Men with men performing these shameful horrors, receiving, of course, in their own personalities the consequences of sexual perversity. Now, if a man is perverse, he cannot be a teacher in a classroom and not show forth that perverseness.

ACANFORA:I have to be honest with myself. And other people can live a separate life, live a dual life, hiding from everyone the fact that they’re gay. But that’s just-- I think it’s playing a game and I don’t know how healthy that is.

SAFER:On Friday, Joe Acanfora appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. There he asked for a preliminary injunction against the board of education so that he could be put back in the classroom until his case could be tried. The board of education asked that Acanfora’s suit against them be dismissed. The judge denied Acanfora’s plea for immediate reinstatement, but also refused to dismiss the case. It is scheduled to be heard in its entirety on the 26th of March -- 30 days from now.

[Announcements]

LETTERS TO 60 MINUTES
Volume V, Number 12
CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Sunday, March 4, 1973
6:00 – 7:00 PM, EST

SAFER:It was predictable, We were flooded with mail last week about our story on Joe Acanfora, the homosexual teacher who lost his job.

One viewer said: “[Having heard teachers described as] frustrated old maids and dirty old men … from where I sit, homosexuality doesn’t look that bad.”

About the minister who quoted the Scriptures to justify his case against a homosexual teacher, a viewer wrote: “As a dedicated member of the Southern Baptist Church, I am disturbed … Why are the most backward sectarian mouths chosen to exemplify the church’s position?”

Another viewer wrote: “[Putting Joe Acanfora in the classroom] is just like putting the fox in the henhouse.”

But there was a letter that said: “Socrates, one of the greatest teachers in history, was a homosexual.”

Followed by: “These so-called liberals give me a pain in my you-know-what. They would be the first to … squawk if one of their sons were molested. Good God, how broad-minded can you get?”

A high school principal who described himself as a homosexual, and understandably left his letter unsigned, said: “Latent homosexuals [with their counterfeit masculinity] pose [more of a threat] to boys [than does Joe Acanfora].”

And finally, there was this: “It does surprise me … how some people can still be so incredibly naïve. As Joe’s parents, we are placing our faith and hope in the more real and human people. For my son Joe, it is impossible to express my admiration for him.”

I’m Morley Safer.

WALLACE:I’m Mike Wallace. We will be back next Sunday with another edition of 60 MINUTES.