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MCPS Superintendent Responds to Anti-Gay Flier

Multiple students expressed concern to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr regarding a flier that was distributed at Wootton and Einstein high schools last week.

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.”

David S. Fishback February 10, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Metro DC PFLAG has in the past and will in the future distribute flyers counteracting the misinformation from PFOX. We have worked for years to improve the school system's curriculum and to assure that accurate material is provided in the guidance offices, including materials from the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The PFOX flyer urges students to go to the PFOX website, where "therapies" are encouraged. But these therapies have been condemned as dangerous by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional organization, including the American Medical Association. There are things that can be done with the Montgomery County curriculum that will help students deal with the PFOX assertions. See http://metrodcpflag.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/its-about-more-than-just-fliers/ Please read this link and help. David Fishback, Advocacy Chair Metro DC PFLAG
Jay Levy February 11, 2012 at 02:27 PM
As a former MCPS teacher,I don't believe there should be unlimited access for all groups to use the "take home" method to distribute their message. Instead only material directly related to school activities, such as sporting events, citrus sales, after school-sponsored activities, etc., should qualify.
Susan Katz Miller February 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
The Einstein GSA wants PFLAG flyers distributed to counter the PFOX flyers, but that hasn't happened in the four years my daughter has been there, to our knowledge. Please help students at Einstein and Blair (where the flyers were also distributed recently) make this happen, as an interim measure. There is one flyer distribution day left this year, at the end of this quarter. While it is important to continue improving the health curriculum, that is not sufficient response to these flyers. Some students don't take health until senior year. Imagine getting PFOX flyers for three years before ever taking health. Imagine the impact that could have on a vulnerable teen. Flyers are rarely used in high schools since students won't bother to bring them home and parents don't look through high school backpacks. I think this is the only flyer either of my high school students (one at Blair, one at Einstein) has brought home all year. So if we have to stop high school flyers to stop PFOX, let's do it. However, I am really incredulous that we cannot make a distinction between Montgomery County organizations offering academic or arts or enrichment programming for students, and national organizations advocating for practices that endanger the mental health of our children. Parent, Einstein and Blair
Theresa Defino February 11, 2012 at 04:29 PM
It is highly likely that this group had the sheet distributed at ALL schools. They came to teachers at RM as well. Of course, since our PTSA list serv is a tool of MCPS and the administration and posts are censored and forwarded to the principal without permission (this happened twice to me) so I don't know if the parents and students objected. We surely have in the past.
David S. Fishback February 12, 2012 at 04:20 AM
PFLAG distributed at all MCPS high schools in 2010. We plan to do so in April. If you would like to help, please call the Metro DC PFLAG office at 202-638-3852. Flyers and curriculum improvements are very important (and the curriculum improvements would be in the 8th Grade curriculum, as well as the 10th). Dr. Starr's statements should send a message to all MCPS staff as to what the response should be. David Fishback, Advocacy Chair Metro DC PFLAG David Fishback
Michael Wade February 13, 2012 at 01:33 AM
PFOX is absolutely correct that gay is a choice. There is no evidence that peolpe are born gay. The largest percentage of gay men come from being raised by single women. Other shocking facts are that 25 percent of children raised by gay men identify themselves as gay while the numbe is a whopping 58 percent for those raised by lesbians. Using the gay rhetoric one could, also, argue that rapist and murderers were born the way they are. If so, then why being a rapist or murderer should not be a crime just as being gay is not.
Robert J. Smith February 13, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however the superintendent's comments are very troubling from a person in his position. They seem to indicate a bias toward the pro-gay agenda which supports the notion that the public schools are a utility for the indoctination of our children toward manifesting that agenda. This, notwwithstanding the nuisance of obeying the law by distribution of flyer containing an opposing viewpoint,.
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 13, 2012 at 03:01 PM
"PFOX is absolutely correct that gay is a choice. There is no evidence that peolpe are born gay." Then how do you explain what Italian researchers discovered in 04 that made huge headlines. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6519-survival-of-genetic-homosexual-traits-explained.html Or http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/born-gay: "Whether or not a gay gene, a set of gay genes, or some other biological mechanism is ever found, one thing is clear: The environment a child grows up in has nothing to do with what makes most gay men gay. Two of the most convincing studies have proved conclusively that sexual orientation in men has a genetic cause." Genetics is complicated and the jury is still out on how it all works. "Using the gay rhetoric one could, also, argue that rapist and murderers were born the way they are. If so, then why being a rapist or murderer should not be a crime just as being gay is not." Lordy that is some offensive nonsense. Does someone being gay affect you the same way someone raping or murdering you does? Because that's what you just implied.
David S. Fishback February 13, 2012 at 05:21 PM
All Dr. Starr did was echo what all American mainstream medical and mental health professional associations have been telling us for years: That being gay is not an illness and that "therapies" aimed at changing one's sexual orientation are dangerous. This is not a "gay" agenda -- it is a health agenda. David Fishback, Advocacy Chair Metro DC PFLAG

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