Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Montgomery superintendent accused of sexual orientation discrimination by Jen Bondeson
An advocacy group says Montgomery County schools superintendent Joshua P. Starr violated the school board’s nondiscrimination policy with comments he made in February.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays posted a complaint against Starr on its website Thursday and submitted it to the Montgomery County Board of Education, alleging that Starr “exhibit[ed] verbal abuse, disrespectful behavior, demonstrated prejudice, slurs, illegal discrimination, and hate against PFOX and the ex-gay sexual orientation, all of which are forbidden by the Nondiscrimination Policy ACB.”
The school board is reviewing the complaint, according to schools spokesman Dana Tofig.
The organization’s complaint points to Starr’s remarks during a Feb. 7 town hall meeting at Wootton High School.
On Feb. 1, PFOX distributed a flier in some high schools that stated that there is no “gay gene” and that sexual orientation is based on “feelings and is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration.” The fliers caused concerns from some in the school community.
During the town hall meeting, Starr said he found the fliers to be “reprehensible and deplorable.”
He explained that nonprofits are allowed to send fliers through the school system’s current policy, which allows any organization to have fliers distributed at schools four times in the school year.
“We are bound to do it,” he said. “And this group has figured out a way to use that law to spread what I find to be a really disgusting message, quite frankly ... we are also looking at ways we may be able to communicate a much more important message, that no matter what their background is, no matter what their orientation is, no matter what they don’t like, whatever it may be whoever they are they have a place in our schools and deserve to be safe.”
Those comments about PFOX were discriminatory, the organization states, as the school board’s policy is to “provide an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, and where all persons are treated fairly and with respect in an environment free of discrimination and threats of violence or abuse” along with “acts of hate/violence” including sexual orientation.
Tofig said that Starr did not want to respond to the complaint at this time.
He said that Starr made it clear he disagrees with what the flier said and the organization’s point of view, but that they had the right to distribute the fliers.
Due to public response after the PFOX fliers were distributed, the school board is amending its policy on nonprofit fliers.
If the school board finalizes its recommended amendment, the fliers would no longer be allowed to be distributed to students in middle and high schools; fliers would still be allowed to be distributed in elementary schools and allowed to be set out in common areas in all schools.
The public can send comments on the school board’s proposed policy changes until May 30 at firstname.lastname@example.org.