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Florida Teacher Suspended for Anti-Gay Facebook Remarks Speaks: VIDEO


Last week, Andrew posted about Jerry Buell, a Florida teacher who was suspended for remarks he made on Facebook saying he "almost threw up" in response to a news story about same-sex marriage in New York. Buell also called the marriages part of a "cesspool" and said they were a sin.

The anti-gay Liberty Counsel stepped in to defend Buell. This week the ACLU joined Liberty Counsel in defending Buell.

The ACLU released a statement to the Sentinel in defense of Jerry Buell, a Mount Dora High School teacher who wrote a Facebook post calling same-sex unions a “cesspool” that made him want to throw up.

“The First Amendment protects his right to share his views – offensive or not,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, in a statement. “Even though we strongly disagree with his opinion, especially considering how hard the ACLU fought to win marriage equality in New York, Mr. Buell should not be subject to disciplinary action by his employer for expressing his views.”

CNN interviews Buell and his attorney about his suspension, AFTER THE JUMP...

(clip via jmg)

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  1. Unfortunately, the ACLU is right, he has a right to his views even if they are disgusting. But I had to laugh when the commenter mentioned "something he had posted on his private Facebook page..."

    There is no privacy in the Facebook Age...

    Posted by: scott | Aug 24, 2011 1:27:15 PM

  2. Free speech isn't free speech if it isn't free for everybody, but it's not his speech that's the problem. I wouldn't want any hateful idiot, no matter what the target of their hateful idiocy is, teaching children. That's a purely objective, moral, ethical and rational opinion.

    He is an idiot who has proclaimed his violent hatred for some of his students. He isn't qualified to teach children. It's that simple.

    Posted by: ohplease | Aug 24, 2011 1:35:48 PM

  3. This is problematic for me, because as much as I don't like him or his comments, I taught a high school class recently on law in America, and we actually got to discuss same-sex marriage (it was in the textbook!). It was great to have kids discussing the issue rationally, and when they asked me my opinion, all I said was "I think it is peculiar that two strangers--or convicts--can get married and receive 100+ benefits from the government, yet two people who've built a life together for decades can't." I would've been very displeased if someone would've come down on me for even saying something this restrained as being "pro-gay." So we've got to be careful with the free speech thing--we cheer when the other side is suppressed, we can't then complain if we get suppressed.

    Posted by: Dback | Aug 24, 2011 1:38:33 PM

  4. This man does have a right to his views, but not as a public servant who has the job of forming the minds of the young of our society. Would we put up with his views if they were anti-semetic, anti-black, anti-asian? I doubt it.

    Posted by: Mykelb | Aug 24, 2011 1:42:24 PM

  5. @ohplease: If he had said it on the job, you might have a point.

    Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2011 1:42:56 PM

  6. I profoundly disagree. The exact purpose of a code of ethics is (as agreed-to by the teachers when they became such) to supplant certain freedoms for the sake of protecting the children in their care. Signing that code of ethics was undertaken voluntarily by the prospective teachers and, like any contract, they are henceforth subject to it. As for the bigoted statements, they seriously undermine Buell's ability to teach without prejudice, not only because of the students in his care (who could be, for example, effeminate gay men or 'butch' lesbians) but because of the impact of LGBT historical figures on society, such as gay computing pioneer Alan Turing or writer and wit Oscar Wilde. Buell should not be allowed to teach.

    Posted by: BenB | Aug 24, 2011 1:44:28 PM

  7. They keep pretending that comments posted on your Facebook page are private. They are not. They are public. (As is evidenced by the fact they were discovered to begin with.) Everyone has the right to say whatever they want, but it is certainly not always the case that anyone can say anything anytime.

    Mr. Buell stands by his inflammatory and hateful remarks (they weren't a passionate and rational argument; they were simply expressions of disgust), which I respect more than a fake apology, but it is reasonable for the school to question whether someone who is willing to say such harmful words publicly is able to treat his gay students or students from gay families with dignity and respect. He insists he treats all students with respect (while bringing God into it, why?), yet he never specifically addresses gay students and whether his open disgust would affect his mentoring of such students.

    If I were a gay parent or a parent of a gay student, I would need much more clarity from Mr. Buell before I let him anywhere near my kids. Even if he is within his free speech rights, how one conducts oneself on public forums--civilly vs. uncivilly--is an indication of character. A teacher making such hostile public remarks speaks to his lack of ethics. If the school wasn't questioning his behavior they wouldn't be doing their job.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 24, 2011 1:44:51 PM

  8. What I don't understand is why the ACLU thinks it's fine to fire a teacher because he's been in a few sex videos, saying that he would have a "much stronger case" if his job didn't involve supervising children, while it's fine to have a job with discriminatory opinions like that, all while supervising children? I don't get it. I mean, some of those children will be gay, right? Why should they have to subjected to something like that, whereas I think it's downright bizarre that you can be fired for being in a sex video or pornography film. I mean, it's what everyone's doing anyway — they're just not on camera. Maybe I'm confused

    Posted by: gggggb | Aug 24, 2011 1:45:27 PM

  9. @Jack: Perhaps you weren't paying attention. One of his STUDENTS read his webpage. He had to have friended the student in order for that student to see his posts. That is the problem. Teachers today are too close to their students, after school hours. If teachers expect to teach after hours, online, then they had better expect to behave in such a manner as well.

    Posted by: Mykelb | Aug 24, 2011 1:47:07 PM

  10. Free speech has consequences. I don't agree that he be fired, but exposed. Nonetheless, how many gay people have lost their jobs/homes for no other reason but for their sexual orientation?

    Posted by: nikko | Aug 24, 2011 1:52:56 PM

  11. Free speech means the government can't jail or kill you for speaking out or peacefully assembling. It doesn't absolve you from consequences or from judgement by others on your speech.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Aug 24, 2011 1:57:11 PM

  12. this is not about free speech. it's about an unrepentantly prejudiced bigot teaching a SOCIAL STUDIES CLASS.

    learn to discern, folks. the intellectually feeble minds "worried about this" are freaking pathetic.

    an unrepentant anti-black racist or anti-Semite would have been removed from his position in a matter of HOURS.

    why dont' you wimps wise up, wake up, and stop worrying about condemning anti-gay bigotry? for real.

    this is not a case of "oh, what if someone gets fired for saying something pro-gay???" and stop being so weak as to think that would survive in a court of law.

    this is about a teacher making harmful statements against some of his students. yeah. that's right.

    an unrepentant bigot teaching children. learn to discern, people.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 24, 2011 2:04:48 PM

  13. I think Ernie might be on to something. This story has gotten a lot of local attention. The town, Mt. Dora, is known for its eclectic, progressive artist community. Wouldn't it be interesting if the parents refused to allow their kids into his classes.

    Posted by: acorlando | Aug 24, 2011 2:10:25 PM

  14. With that rationale, why do sports figures get suspended of fined for expressing their views? If a sports figure said black people make me sick, would everyone say, well OK, you have a right to your opinion. Can I have your autograph for my child? He thinks your great!

    No, they would not. They would say, I want to keep this man and his opinions away from my child. This man is not just some blow hard off the street. He has a position that requires tolerance, not personal rejection of individuals.

    His words are evidence of his inability to be fair and rational to all his students. He should not be teaching.

    Posted by: Steve Pardue | Aug 24, 2011 2:22:05 PM

  15. "an unrepentant anti-black racist or anti-Semite would have been removed from his position in a matter of HOURS"

    That may depend on what school district they teach in, Little Kiwi. I've had (and heard of) teachers that used code words or code phrases to speak their bigoted views, but they were never fired.

    For instance, a highschool teacher who defends the Confederacy and the institution of slavery might be fired if he taught in Atlanta, but maybe not if he taught in a more rural part of Pennsylvania...ooops, I mean, Georgia.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Aug 24, 2011 2:23:44 PM

  16. Don't we all look forward to the day an openly KKK member is teaching our kids?

    Posted by: Steve Pardue | Aug 24, 2011 2:28:17 PM

  17. really, Derrick??

    EEk. Praise Zarathustra I was born and raised in Canada...

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 24, 2011 2:29:12 PM

  18. Instead of defending a man with a masters degree who was fired unjustly and prejudicially from his job of teaching kids math because he had a previous and perfectly legal, unrelated profession of being in adult entertainment, the ACLU is instead spending their time defending this homophobic jerk.

    Time well spent, I guess. There are no "sympathetic lawyers" to be found at the ACLU for qualified people who only want to move on from a previous career to one teaching kids, but there are enough sympathetic lawyers for a homophobic, hate-spewing one? They're less concerned with a hate-monger teaching kids than a guy with a first rate education who USED to be an adult film star?

    Posted by: luminum | Aug 24, 2011 2:30:17 PM

  19. LUMINUM - it's awful and it's typical.

    this country's puritanical obsession with sex, and the fear of being "sexualized gay men" is pathetic.

    we've all seen it. the only gays who are 'accepted' are the ones who work their buns off to be as desexualized as possible. it's shameful.

    and defending this unrepentant bigot? the wrong battle for the wrong reasons.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 24, 2011 2:43:57 PM

  20. Buell speaking to his students: "...You won't find a place that you will feel more respected..." Really?! If that is respecting everyone that is in your class, I am glad I never was. Everyone in this country has a right to free speech, but everyone is not free from consequences.

    Posted by: J. Page | Aug 24, 2011 2:44:06 PM

  21. Nope. Free speech is free speech, whether public or private, on Facebook or the street corner, by a social studies teacher or a truck driver. Unless he was inciting violence or causing panic, his speech is protected, period. Saying it makes you want to throw up is NOT a violent sentiment.

    He's exposed as he should be, and every parent can and should remove their kids from his class, maybe forcing the district to lay him off or something. But fired or disciplined for the comment? That's wholly un-American, and the same would be true if he said it about a race, religion, color or anything, so long as he is not explicitly inciting violence.

    Posted by: JeffRob | Aug 24, 2011 2:45:11 PM

  22. Why aren't teachers held to the same standard as their students when they post on-line? More US nonsense!

    Posted by: Robin | Aug 24, 2011 2:45:28 PM

  23. it's not unAmerican to fire him for this comment. it's utterly American.

    it may be unamerican to throw him in JAIL for this comment, but not to fire him from his job of teaching SOCIAL STUDIES to MINORS.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 24, 2011 2:52:46 PM

  24. There's again, a lot of confusion over these issues here.

    Normally, because this is a suspension and not a legal matter, it would fall under administrative law first, and he would have union representation. Normally, he would be suspended with pay with his record cleared after two years. Why the ACLU has gotten involved so early is not clear.

    Teachers must abide by a standard code of conduct, but it's Conduct with a capital C. Not speech. Having sex is Conduct. Talking about sex is not. Teaching is conduct in some respects, but not all, and we aren't talking about teaching.

    Sports figures lose out because they sign what amount to promoter liability clauses in their contracts, which means they are spokespersons for their teams. The fines they pay are not govt. fines in any case (and they get reimbursed more often than not by teams and unions).

    I'm thinking the ACLU is going after the school social media policy in general, which makes perfect sense, so they intend to be the plaintiffs.

    Most teachers unions have contracts that stipulate that teachers are not required to actually teach, but rather, shall be liable for "outcomes" far below the norm. This means that if the teacher sat there and said nothing this would be fine with the union and satisfied his contract as long as his students didn't test badly. However, this is not necessarily the case everywhere. Some states have strict lesson plan following requirements.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 24, 2011 3:28:27 PM

  25. While we obviously disagree with him and his opinions, he does have the right to free speech, as doer all. And strictly speaking, he was not expressing a view that was contrary to school ethics code, or especially Florida law. Florida has defined marriage strictly between one man and one woman- without even consideration for domestic partnerships, much less civil unions or full marriage. Additionally, he wasn't expressing a dislike per se of gay individuals, ( yes, I know, saying "gay marriage makes you puke" is in reality stating you dislike them) but he didn't explicitly say that, or propose violence or discriminatory actions.

    He should and does have a right to free speech. That said, it's cases like this which make independents -who don't give a flip either way - nervous about gay rights and marriage equality. When someone expresses violence or proposes discrimination, then we can go all out on them

    Posted by: Scott | Aug 24, 2011 3:33:14 PM

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