ROCKVILLE, Md. — The superintendent of Montgomery County schools in Rockville, Md., has labeled as “reprehensible and deplorable” flyers that were sent home with high school students recently that claimed homosexuality is a choice that can be changed.
In a town hall style meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Joshua Starr told students and faculty that the school district’s hands were tied after a 2006 court ruling that prevents district officials from choosing who can distribute information to students.
Last week, the anti-gay organization, Parents and Friends of Gays (PFOX), distributed a flyer to students of five county high schools that stated, “Those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information on overcoming their [homosexual] feelings.”
“We can’t really do much about it unless we wanted to cut off all flier distribution, which is an option,” he said. “This group has figured out how to use that law to spread what I find to be a really, really disgusting message, frankly.”
Starr said that non-profit organizations are allowed to distribute fliers four times per school year.
According to Peter Sprigg, a member of PFOX’s board of directors and a spokesperson for the anti-gay Family Research Council — a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group — students would be receiving more similar fliers in April.
“We know that many adolescents experience confusion about sexual identity — that’s a normal part of growing up Sprigg said. “Some experience same-sex attraction as something unwanted to them, and we want to ensure those kids do not have to adopt a permanent fixed identity at this point in life.”
A large number of parents and students were outraged by the contents of the fliers, which said, in part: “Every year thousands of people with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave the gay identity [...]”
PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs has called on the Montgomery County Board of Education to censure Starr over his criticism of the fylers.
“The (school’s non-discrimination) policy mandates that schools 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,’” said Griggs.
“Starr’s … slurs against the ex-gay community amount to hate and illegal sexual orientation discrimination, which are all forbidden by the Policy. Starr does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment,” she added.
Montgomery County schools sexual education curriculum teaches students that there is a growing amount of scientific consensus and data that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic.