Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) files this MCPS Form 270-8 complaint with the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education against its School Superintendent Joshua Starr and charges him with discrimination in violation of Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Nondiscrimination Policy ACB, including sexual orientation discrimination.
On February 1, 2012, PFOX flyers were distributed to some MCPS students. PFOX’s flyers provided information concerning unwanted same-sex attractions, discouraged name calling and labeling, and urged tolerance for former homosexuals. In response to the flyers and in front of a group of students, Superintendent Starr publicly denigrated PFOX and former homosexuals by calling the actions of PFOX “reprehensible and deplorable” and labeling the flyer’s sexual orientation content as “a really, really disgusting message.” See video of Starr teaching intolerance and hate to students at http://youtu.be/KQurGgAtc48
Clearly Superintendent Joshua Starr has violated the mandates of the Board’s Nondiscrimination Policy ACB. In what could have been a positive teaching moment to demonstrate respect and appreciation of differences, fair treatment for all persons, and a safe school environment free of discrimination and abuse, Starr instead chose to exhibit 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.
Section C of the MCPS Board of Education’s Nondiscrimination Policy ACB states that Montgomery County public schools are 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 … abuse.”
The Nondiscrimination Policy ACB also prohibits “acts of hate,” including “verbal abuse and slurs.”
The Nondiscrimination Policy ACB further mandates that schools are to be free of incidents involving “disrespectful behavior, prejudicial action, hate” and illegal discrimination, in particular those based on sexual orientation.
Starr’s actions demonstrate that he does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment. As School Superintendent, Joshua Starr’s actions make it impossible for Montgomery County public schools to provide an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, or where everyone is treated fairly and with respect free of discrimination and abuse, as mandated by the MCPS Nondiscrimination Policy ACB.
The School Superintendent is a vital role model for all of our students, staff, and teachers. When the School Superintendent promotes intolerance of former homosexuals and organizations that support them, students and teachers will follow his example and learn to also disrespect sexual minorities like the ex-gay community. Superintendent Starr cannot be allowed to use his official position to display hate against any group of people because he disagrees with their sexual orientation. Starr’s salary is paid by all county taxpayers and they should not be forced to subsidize intolerance. Therefore it is essential that the Board of Education grant the remedy requested below.
The Board’s Nondiscrimination Policy mandates staff training to ensure its implementation (Section E3). Starr’s flagrant violation of the Nondiscrimination Policy demonstrates that he is a prime candidate to receive ex-gay tolerance training and diversity education. In accordance with the Nondiscrimination Policy, PFOX therefore requests as a remedy that:
1. PFOX teach an ex-gay tolerance training session to School Superintendent Starr and his staff;
2. Ex-gay tolerance and anti-bullying brochures provided by PFOX be made freely available to students and staff in each high school’s counseling office; and
3. Ex-gay books donated by PFOX be placed in each high school library to ensure diversity and inclusion as mandated by the Nondiscrimination Policy.
Last year PFOX met with Kevin Jennings, former Assistant Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education. Jennings affirmed the right of ex-gay organizations to have equal access in the nation’s public schools and agreed that former homosexuals should not be discriminated against during outreach efforts for students with unwanted same-sex attractions.
The National Educators Association (NEA) Ex-Gay Educators Caucus and the American College of Pediatricians also support ex-gay equal access to schools.
PFOX has also met with Joseph Wheeler, Attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Wheeler agreed with the District of Columbia’s Superior Court (2009) ruling that ex-gays are a legally protected class. PFOX had brought this lawsuit to ensure equality for the ex-gay community.
According to Public Schools and Sexual Orientation Consensus Guidelines developed by the First Amendment Center, school officials are urged to include the viewpoints of all participants, including ex-gays and their supporters, in order to develop policies that promote fairness for all. Actions by educators to exclude some views merely because they disagree with them constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Therefore, the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools is protected by the First Amendment and should be heard. These guidelines were endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), American Association of School Administrators, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
PFOX also attended the Federal Partners in Bullying Summit held by the Department of Education. As only 175 attendees around the country were invited, PFOX was among the leaders in the field of bullying prevention invited to convene with the federal government and other national leaders to help stop bullying.
PFOX has exhibited at the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) national convention and the Connecticut Conference on Multicultural Education, among others.
Ironically, Peter Sprigg of PFOX received a letter of commendation from Superintendent Starr for serving six years on the Board of Education’s Family Life and Human Development Committee.
We ask the School Board to read a newspaper editorial written by a student at Walter Johnson High School who received PFOX’s ex-gay flyer. See editorial at http://pfox-exgays.blogspot.com/2012/02/students-more-tolerant-than-mcps.html She writes, “We cannot call ourselves tolerant while sealing off our schools from groups that we disagree with…we cannot make the right decisions unless we hear all sides of the story.” Let’s learn from our students.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays
~ Supporting Equal Rights for the Ex-Gay Community ~