Following an outcry over kids in Maryland schools taking home ex-gay leaflets with their report cards last month, the school district is now considering banning all leaflets from outside organizations.
Montgomery board members voted Monday to refer the matter to the board’s policy subcommittee for review and to recommend changes. The committee is expected to meet March 20, and then the full school board would vote on any revisions.
David Fishback, advocacy chairman for the Metro D.C. chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, applauded Starr for speaking out against the fliers.
Peter Sprigg, a member of the board of directors of PFOX, told board members that it would be “reprehensible, deplorable and disgusting” if they decided to “punish” all nonprofit groups in the county because they disagreed with the messages of some.
The Rev. Grace Harley, also testifying on behalf of PFOX, said that the people she referred to as “ex-gay” are often discriminated against. She said she lived for 18 years as a transgender man named Joe before becoming an ex-gay woman. “I have suffered more intolerance as an ex-gay person than I ever did as a gay person,” she said.
The board voted 8 to 1 to pass a resolution to review the policy “in light of concerns raised by the community.”
The flier, which was in fact distributed to students at five high schools in the district area, came from Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX), an organization that maintains†gay people can change their sexual orientation. The flier said,†”Every year thousands of people with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave a gay identity.” The flier challenged the notion that people are born gay by saying that no one has ever found a gay gene and encouraged students to seek help if they felt they might be LGBT.
Understandably, the flier caused a great deal of concern among parents who were worried what effect this might have on the wellbeing of kids and whether it was right to send home leaflets with such a glaring agenda.
However, the District said its hands were tied by a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruling that Montgomery County’s previous refusal to allow an evangelical organization to send home leaflets was discriminatory.†Therefore, if the school district allows outside organizations to send home materials it†must allow any registered nonprofits to send home fliers with students. Routinely, and as was the case here, schools add a disclaimer, but the District was criticized that this simply isn’t good enough because the materials could be dangerous for LGBT kids due to the unsubstantiated claims and outright distortions the flier contained — we analyzed those for you here.
While the District is required to allow all nonprofits to send home fliers if it accepts material from outside organizations, it has always had the option of ending that practice entirely. Now, this is something that the District is considering so as to avoid children becoming , as one board member apparently put it, a “pony express for fliers” and risking pupils’ mental health.
Image taken from PFOX website from "I Chose to Change" brochure in the public domain. Image is not necessarily representative of the particular flier handed out to Montgomery students and is used for illustrative purposes only.