The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

    BOE reviews policy after controversy

    The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) voted to re-examine its flier distribution policy Feb. 27 after receiving complaints about fliers distributed by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) to students at several MCPS schools, including CHS.

    Members of the BOE have formed a policy committee that will meet with lawyers and consider public input before making a decision about the flier distribution policy. According to Principal Joan Benz, one CHS parent complained to her about the PFOX fliers.

    According to BOE member Phil Kauffman, MCPS is required to distribute any flier given to them by a non-profit organization unless it contains hate speech. According to Peter Sprigg, a member of the Board of Directors of PFOX and a Montgomery County resident, there is no offensive language in PFOX’s fliers.

    “People who experience unwanted same-sex attractions should have the right to seek help to change,” Sprigg said.

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    However, according to David Fishback, advocacy chair of the Metro D.C. chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the PFOX fliers direct readers to PFOX’s website, where Fishback claims there is information that may discourage homosexual teenagers.

    After PFOX distributed fliers to MCPS in 2010, PFLAG representatives felt it necessary to send a correctional response flier and are currently drafting a similar flier after PFOX’s February distribution.

    “It is very dangerous for kids who may be gay but haven’t really fully come to terms with it,” Fishback said. “If they’re told that there are therapies that can help you, they can be lured to those things and are essentially destroyed. By sending that message out in the community generally, those kids who are not gay believe that kids who are gay choose to be that way. You are setting the table for the kind of bullying that is all too prevalent in our community.”

    Sprigg argues that a person can decide to be heterosexual or homosexual.

    “We want to get this information out particularly to young people who are vulnerable to confusion and mixed feelings about their sexuality but also who are vulnerable to a lot of pro-homosexual propaganda in public schools today,” Sprigg said.

    Sprigg feels that it is important that PFOX distribute fliers to MCPS because their fliers contain information about ex-gays that is not covered in health classes.

    English teacher Valerie Mainwaring puts the PFOX fliers on a table in her classroom but refuses to distribute them to her students. According to Mainwaring, since teachers are required to limit their expression of religion and politics in the classroom, non-profits should not be able to promote certain religious or political views.

    Senior Aura Chapa, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and other GSA members wrote letters to teachers asking them not to distribute the PFOX fliers. Several teachers responded that they had tried to protest in past years, but they were met with backlash from the administration.

    Despite some students’ disdain for PFOX, they do not all support an overhaul of MCPS’s flier distribution policy.

    “As much as I don’t like the PFOX fliers being distributed, I fear that this will affect other positive forms of outreach,” Chapa said.

    To preserve freedom of speech, the BOE cannot ban PFOX from flier distribution while allowing other organizations to continue to distribute fliers unless they can identify specific language in the PFOX fliers as hate speech.

    “If we decided that there should be no flier distribution from any non-profit, then that would not violate anyone’s free speech,” Kauffman said.

    According to Kauffman, the BOE will examine whether it is possible to ban distribution of fliers by all non-profits while making an exception for school-based groups such as the PTA and booster clubs.

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    BOE reviews policy after controversy