The headmistress' call for tolerance of homosexuality at a Baltimore County private school for girls has sparked a controversy that led to an emotional meeting with 150 parents yesterday.
Parents at St. Paul's School for Girls in Brooklandville met with Headmistress Evelyn A. Flory for 90 minutes to discuss remarks she made that upset at least a dozen parents.
"These are our children," said Margaret Grasmick of Phoenix, a mother who is considering removing her ninth-grader from St. Paul's. "It is not the school's place to coach our children in how to view sexual orientation."
In remarks two weeks ago, Flory urged the school's 333 students to avoid discriminating based on sexual orientation.
Flory and other faculty members also posted pink triangles -- a symbol of support for gays and lesbians -- on bulletin boards at the Episcopal school, which teaches children in grades five through 12.
"When we pin up a pink triangle, we are saying we will accept and respect and welcome all persons, including homosexual persons," Flory told the students during morning prayers. "We truly believe that every child is a child of God -- every one."
Those remarks, as relayed to parents by students, touched off a debate about the role of the school in teaching moral issues -- particularly controversial ones.
A group of a dozen parents wrote an anonymous letter suggesting that Flory was promoting homosexuality and mailed it to parents and some trustees. The letter also invited parents to yesterday's meeting with Flory.
"Will our children be encouraged to support the gay movement?" the letter said. "Will they be asked to wear pink triangular lapel pins such as many of the faculty as well as Dr. Flory have displayed on their bulletin boards?"
Yesterday, about 150 parents jammed the school's assembly room for a discussion, beginning with comments from Flory and Grasmick, who has identified herself as one of twelve authors of the letter.
The meeting was emotional, said several who attended, but it did little to satisfy Grasmick and other parents.
Brenda English of Phoenix, another author of the letter, said, "They were told you must embrace and celebrate [homosexuality]. For some of us, that is not an acceptable option. There is a difference between promoting something and tolerance."
After the meeting, Flory defended her decision to raise the subject and said she expected some reaction from parents. Promoting diversity -- racial, ethnic and sexual orientation -- is central to the school's mission, she said. "Sexual orientation is not my issue," she said. "Diversity is my issue."
Flory said her initial comments on homosexuality were not prompted by any particular incident. She said she began thinking about diversity because February is Black History Month.
Several parents praised Flory after yesterday's meeting.
"I think it was a good experience for everyone to get together, air their views," said John Dunning, father of an 11th-grader at St. Paul's. "From what she said, I think her intentions are good. If anything, she wants our children to be open-minded."
Pub Date: 2/21/98