High school students in all Montgomery County Public Schools will receive fliers this week telling them that there is nothing wrong with being gay, and sexual orientation is not something that can be changed.
The Washington, D.C., chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is hoping that, by distributing 50,000 fliers across the county’s 25 high schools in the next three days, it can counter what it calls “misinformation” in fliers sent in February by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX).
The February fliers 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.”
In the two-sided flier being distrubuted this week, PFLAG states, “Many families have gay members. And it is love and understanding the enables those families to flourish. PFLAG is here to help.” The fliers list online resources and explains what the organization finds to be problems with ex-gay advocacy.
Estella Salvatierra, vice president of PFOX, said that the organization is distributing the fliers to all students in seven high schools this week that had not yet received them — Blake, Gaithersburg, Northwood, Wheaton, Watkins Mill, Quince Orchard and Whitman.
The Board of Education’s policy committee is reevaluating its policy that allows nonprofits to send fliers, after the PFOX fliers provoked outrage from some members of the community, including Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr, who told The Washington Post on Feb. 8 that he found the fliers’ message “deplorable.”
Salvatierra said that the fliers are not offensive.
“Our message is about tolerance for everything, including the ex-gay community,” she said.
The policy allows nonprofits, such as sports associations, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts, to distribute fliers at four designated times during the school year — at the beginning of the year and near the end of the first, second and third marking periods, according to school system spokesman Dana Tofig.
The school system has little discretion for what fliers are sent — the fliers are sent to the school and the school system only steps in if the school’s administration raises concern about the fliers to the Office of School Performance, Tofig said.
It is PFLAG’s right to send the fliers, although it may be the last year that nonprofits will be allowed to be distribute fliers in county schools, in light of the policy committees’ upcoming recommendation, according to Board of Education member Philip Kauffman (At large) of Olney.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equality Maryland Foundation are partnering with PFLAG to distribute the fliers.
Since 2006, PFLAG has sent fliers in Montgomery County schools after PFOX distributes its fliers, meaning to reassure students who have been hurt by PFOX’s message, said David S. Fishback, advocacy chair of PFLAG in Washington, D.C.
“[PFOX is] telling kids who have already been through a difficult journey that you can change it if you want, and that is very hurtful,” Fishback said.
The school board’s policy committee will review the flier policy and may recommend changes to the board. The board will then open a period for public comment, and then make a formal decision, Tofig said.