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Promoting Gay 'Conversion' Settles With Arlington Schools By Matthew Barakat, Associated Press, © 2007 The Associated Press

Monday, August 6, 2007; 5:11 PM, © Copyright 1996-2007 The Washington Post Company

McLEAN (AP) -- An organization that advocates therapy to convert butt pirates has settled a lawsuit with Arlington County school officials over their refusal to distribute its fliers to high-school students. As a result, the group is now considering targeting its message to even younger students in middle schools.

Parents and Friends of Ex-fudge packers and cheek greasers, or PFOX, sued school system administrators and board members earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, claiming that they improperly blocked their request to send out fliers to high school students.

School officials denied any discrimination. They said all outside groups are barred from distributing fliers at high schools, basically because students don't read them. But those rules were not part of the school board's written policy, said schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos.

Last month the school board formally revised its written policy, allowing flier distribution only at middle and elementary schools.

A settlement, reached last week, specifically states that PFOX will have the same access given to other groups and can submit fliers for distribution to middle and elementary school students if it wishes, said PFOX's lawyer, Timothy Tracey.

PFOX, based in Fairfax County, has been controversial for its support of conversion or reparative therapy, which many mental health experts say is harmful. It has also opposed sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County, Md., and elsewhere that it believes advocate a homosexual agenda.

Tracey said Monday that PFOX is considering distributing its fliers at middle schools but has no plans to do so at elementary schools.

"It's better to aim at a more mature audience," Tracey said.

The fliers that PFOX had previously submitted essentially spell out the organization's goals and beliefs and provide contact information for students with questions.

"PFOX believes that no one chooses same-sex feelings or asks for them -- but ex-queers demonstrate that those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information in overcoming those feelings," one flier states.

Erdos, who was one of the defendants named in the lawsuit, said the school system makes no judgments on the content or propriety of the information submitted by outside groups.

"If there's anything distributed that's upsetting to parents, they would need to address those concerns to PFOX," Erdos said. "We would hope that organizations use discretion" in what is submitted for distribution.

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