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social sciences

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However, he did not order the reinstatement of Acanfora. Rather, he accepted the school board's argument that Ancanfora was terminated not because of his homosexuality but because he had not included his membership in the gay organization on his employment application. Moreover, while he found the school board's policy of not knowingly employing any homosexuals objectionable, he found that the publicity about Acanfora's homosexuality, including his vigorous self-defense, was "likely to produce imminent effects deleterious to the educational process" and thus justified the school board's dismissal.

The judge concluded that "Mere knowledge that a teacher is homosexual is not sufficient to justify transfer or dismissal. In addition, the homosexual teacher need not become a recluse, nor need he lie about himself. Like any other teacher, he may attend public gatherings and associate with whomever he chooses. But a sense of discretion and selfrestraint must guide him to avoid speech or activity likely to spark the added public controversy which detracts from the educational process. The point is that to some extent every teacher has to go out of his way to hide his private life, and that a homosexual teacher is not at liberty to ignore or hold in contempt the sensitivity of the subject to the school community."

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Acanfora appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear his case, thereby leaving the Fourth Circuit Court's decision upholding the firing to stand.

Despite the United States Supreme Court's failure to hear Ancanfora's appeal, the case represents several important firsts in the struggle to protect the rights of glbtq teachers. For the first time, members of a school community lobbied the administration to reinstate an openly gay teacher. Seventy-five percent of the faculty and every single student Acanfora taught signed a petition supporting him.

Second, the Ancanfora case was the first time an individual defendant was supported by the newly formed glbtq organizations. The Gay Activists Alliance of Washington, D. C., for example, worked on Acanfora's behalf. In addition, Acanfora had the support of the National Education Association.

Finally, the Acanfora case generated an unprecedented amount of publicity. The Educational Broadcasting Corporation syndicated nationwide a television documentary featuring his battle for the right to teach. Acanfora also appeared on the CBS television program 60 Minutes. Moreover, throughout the ordeal, Acanfora's parents fully supported him publicly.

While the publicity may ultimately have weighed against him in the judge's tortured ruling, which seemed to say that the controversy itself justified his dismissal, Acanfora effectively made the case that his firing was an act of injustice and thereby served notice that other homosexuals would fight against such treatment.

Two other cases in the early 1970s are important. Although both teachers lost in court, their cases also brought the plight of gay teachers to the fore.

John Gish, a Paramus, New Jersey high school English teacher organized the Gay Teachers Caucus of the National Education Association in 1972. He was also active in the Gay Activists Alliance, staging public events to increase awareness of discrimination against gay men and lesbians. When it learned about his affiliations, his school board ordered Gish to undergo a psychiatric examination. When he refused, the school board removed him from his teaching duties and banned him from having any contact with students or graduates.

Gish staged a hunger strike in protest, and he addressed the New Jersey Education Association to describe his situation. The Association's Delegate Assembly directed the Association to work for anti-discrimination legislation that included sexual orientation. Meanwhile, Gish sued the school district.

In 1976, the Superior Court of New Jersey upheld the school district's order that Gish undergo a psychiatric examination, ruling that the teacher's "actions in support of 'gay' rights displayed evidence of deviation from normal mental health."

Gish's appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied. After seven years of legal battles, Gish submitted to a psychiatric examination, but he continued to battle for reinstatement. In the end, Gish was fired on another pretext. Even though he could not return to teaching, his activism inspired glbtq teachers all over the country to engage in legal battles to preserve their right to teach.

In the same year that Acanfora and Gish were barred from teaching, James Gaylord, a high school teacher in Tacoma, Washington, lost his job because of his "immoral sexual orientation." School officials fired Gaylord when they learned of his sexual orientation from a student. Although the Supreme Court of Washington upheld the board's decision, saying that public knowledge of Gaylord's sexuality impaired his ability to teach, he received strong support from the Tacoma Federation of Teachers, which paid his legal fees and later hired him.

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