Fliers from a group that claims it can help gay people turn straight were recently distributed at Montgomery County schools, sparking controversy.
The group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, known as PFOX, distributed 8,000 of the fliers at five Montgomery County schools, including Albert Einstein High in Kensington, Md.
The flier says students with "unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help."
Karen Yount-Merrell told News4 she was upset to see it come home along with her son's report card last week.
"I was really, really angry," she said. "It is so bad because it targets teens that are questioning their orientation."
PFOX believes homosexuality is a choice that can be changed, writing in its flier that there is not credible evidence that individuals are "born gay." The group also says students are too young to label themselves as homosexuals.
The flier in part reads: "Ex-gays demonstrate that those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings. All individuals deserve the right to self-determination and happiness based on their own needs, and not the needs of others. PFOX supports tolerance."
Peter Sprigg, a member of the National Board of Directors for PFOX, says there is nothing homophobic about his group's message.
"There is not hate in these fliers," said Peter Sprigg, a member of the National Board of Directors for PFOX. "These fliers are simply designed to give information, particularly to those students who may feel a certain amount of confusion about their sexual feelings."
He said they are meant to promote diversity for the gay community and tolerance.
A Montgomery County School spokesman tells News4 that PFOX and other nonprofit groups have a legal right to circulate information, saying registered nonprofit organizations are allowed to distribute fliers four times a year.
All fliers distributed by nonprofits at schools are required to carry the following disclaimer: “These materials are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Board of Education of Montgomery County, the superintendent, or this school.”
More on the MCPS flier policy at their website here.
UPDATE: Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Joshua Starr said the fliers sent home from non-profit group PFOX are "reprehensible and deplorable." However, Starr said that Montgomery County Schools are bound by law to send them.
After a 2006 lawsuit, the school system changed its policy on allowing community groups to take home fliers. Now, four times a year, nonprofit organizations may give fliers to the schools, which are then distributed to students.