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Maryland: Stealth ‘Reparative Therapy’ Video Pulled from School Curriculum

By Isabella Joslin, SIECUS Program Research Intern

Administrators of the Prince George’s County school district recently pulled a video from the seventh-grade health curriculum following scrutiny of its promotion of ‘reparative therapy’ for some sexual minority youth.

Acception, a 21-minute video produced by D.C.-area ‘ex-gay’ advocate Christopher Doyle, depicts four students assigned the task of researching homophobic bullying. Two of the students learn about the supposed origins of homosexuality, while others hear the ‘personal experiences’ of Maria, a woman who experienced a decrease in her anxiety-causing sexual feelings towards women when she talked about them with her family and got closer with her female relatives.

The American Psychiatric Association says there is no scientific evidence to support claims for the benefits of reparative therapy. According to its position statement:

“Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable… The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”[1]

The American Counseling Association once expelled a current member of the Prince George’s County Public School Health Council, reparative therapy advocate Richard Cohen, because he “violated six sections of the ACA’s ethics code, which bars members from actions that ‘seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients,’ those that exploit ‘the trust and dependency of clients,’ and for soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner.”[2]

Carrie Evans, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, made a forceful case for keeping reparative therapy resources out of Prince George’s County schools. "It's a horrible, dangerous message to send to gay, lesbian, bi[sexual] and trans[gender] children – that if you pray hard enough or if you do x, y and z, your sexual orientation can be changed.”[3]

According to Doyle, “All I know is the health education supervisor told me on Tuesday that the video was being pulled for further review because of the controversy surrounding some of the messages.”[4] Briant Coleman, spokesperson for the Prince George’s County school district, explained, “We determined that there was not enough information about bullying prevention to justify using it as a supplemental resource for our anti-bullying program.”[5] Allies of comprehensive sexuality education observed that the school district failed to mention the discredited reparative therapy content in its rationale for pulling the video.

[1] American Psychological Association, “Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel,” Just the Facts Coalition, 2008, accessed March 27, 2013, <>.

[2] Sandra G. Boodman, “A Conversion Therapist’s Unusual Odyssey,” Washington Post, August 16, 2005, accessed April 3, 2013, <>.

[3] Rachel Baye, “Prince George's Pulls Video that Advocates Therapy for Gay Teens,” Washington Examiner, Feburary 8, 2013, accessed April 10, 2013, <>.

[4] Michael K. Lavers, “Maryland School District Pulls Bullying Curriculum With ‘Ex-Gay’ References,” Washington Blade, February 8, 2013, accessed March 27, 2013, <>.

[5] Ibid.