Multiple students expressed concern over a flier Principal Michael Doran called "anti-gay propaganda" that was distributed at some Montgomery County Public Schools last week.
The fliers, by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), were sent home with students at Wootton and high schools explaining that being gay is a choice.
During a student town hall event at the Rockville High School Tuesday morning, Superintendent Joshua Starr was asked via Twitter why MCPS allows groups like PFOX to send information home with students.
“I find the actions of PFOX to be reprehensible and deplorable, but we are bound by law to enable non-profits to distribute fliers four times per year,” Starr said. “We can’t really do much about it unless we cut off all flier distribution. This group has figured out a way to use that law to spread what I find to be a really disgusting message.”
"In 2006, a federal appeals court told MCPS its policy of choosing which fliers to distribute was unconstitutional," . "MCPS had tried to block messages from the Child Evangelist Fellowship of Maryland."
The flier explains being gay is a choice because “no ‘gay gene’ or gay center of the brain has been found. No medical test exists to determine if a person is homosexual.”
The language in the flier is carefully worded to avoid being classified as “hate speech literature,” Doran said.
“They’re very clever about how they broach it: [PFOX is] not saying you can’t be gay, what [they’re] saying is you don’t have to be,” Doran said. “And that’s couched. It’s very carefully worded to stay this side of the law.”
Senior Nicole Waxman was upset about the flier and asked Starr to share his ideas on how to stop PFOX from distributing the fliers to students.
Although he again expressed that there is no way for MCPS to stop PFOX in its entirety, Starr said they are exploring a few ways to handle it.
“One of the things I’ve asked my folks to look at is how can we turn this into an educative process,” he said. “We’re an educational organization. Rather than just shut things down… how do we engage people in conversations about having safe school communities where all people are valued?”
At Wootton, many teachers have reservations about distributing the fliers, Doran said.
“We’ve got a gay-straight alliance, teachers who reflect the diversity of the world, but we have no choice,” Doran said. “We cannot break the law.”
Doran was, however, happy to see his students take a stand against something they felt was wrong, he said.
“Why they’re upset is they don’t see this kind of prejudice and discrimination in their daily life,” Doran said. “They’re not seeing it at Wootton, they’re not seeing it at Einstein, they’re not seeing it at [any] high schools… All sorts of kids are accepted. So when you see that [PFOX flier], it’s like ‘Whoa!’ because they don’t see it on a daily basis.”