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Potomac students get fliers saying therapy turns gays straight

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2010; B03

Some Montgomery County high schools passed out fliers this week from an organization that contends gays can become heterosexual through therapy, and the schools say they cannot prevent the use of their distribution system by such groups.

The fliers, from the group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, were distributed Thursday alongside report cards by teachers at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. The group says it delivered them to about half the county's high schools this week and plans to do the same at the remaining high schools at the end of the school year.

The schools are required to distribute literature that isn't deemed hate speech from any registered nonprofit organization four times a year, the result of a 2006 lawsuit, said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Public Schools.

School officials said that while they aren't always happy with everything that goes home with students, their hands are tied by the results of the litigation.

"These fliers are probably counter to what is available in our health curriculum, but that curriculum focuses on respect, and we respect freedom of speech," said Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

The flier, printed on one side of a sheet of paper, says that "every year thousands of people with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave a gay identity." At the bottom, it includes a disclaimer that the content is not sponsored by the Montgomery County Board of Education, the school or the superintendent.

The head of the group said that the effort is simply a way to distribute information.

"We believe that people have the right to seek change if they're unhappy," said Regina Griggs, the organization's director. "No one's telling anybody that they have to support our position."

She said the group had distributed the fliers in Montgomery schools in past years, though it wasn't done last year.

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