Florida Teacher Suspended For Anti-Gay Facebook Messages

ReportCardF A Florida-based teacher named Jerry Buell has been suspended from the classroom and reassigned while the Lake County School Board investigates Facebook messages in which he said he "almost threw up" when he heard about New York's marriage equality, which he also said was part of a "cesspool."

Via the Orlando Sentinel:

Jerry Buell, a long-time Lake County social studies teacher, said during a recent Facebook exchange that he "almost threw up" in response to a news story about legalized same-sex marriage in New York.

On the same July 25 Facebook post he identified the same-sex marriages to being part of a "cesspool." He went on to call the unions a sin.

The comments were made on Buell's personal Facebook page but were visible to friends in his network. Buell argued he made the post on his own time on his personal computer.

"It wasn't out of hatred," he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. "It was about the way I interpret things."

And the way you interpret things, Mr. Buell, happens to be hateful.

Comments

  1. Mick says

    As a gay guy, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that a teacher can be suspended for opposing same sex marriage. Does that violate some code of conduct?

  2. Kevin_BGFH says

    His comment was hateful. But if it wasn’t directed at a student or fellow member of the faculty, I’m a little uncomfortable with him being suspended. Perhaps a discussion about how to restrict his privacy settings so other students don’t see a diatribe — but then, I really don’t think faculty and students should be FB friends anyway.

  3. QJ201 says

    Sorry Mick, as a gay man I am uncomfortable with such people teaching our children. Racism, heterosexism and like are all learned from our elders. Children have no hate until instructed to follow a certain set of beliefs.

    Trust me, I had a neighbor who was an total racist and one of the first words her 3 year old learned started with an N.

  4. Grover Underwood says

    I agree with Little Kiwi. I don’t want people like this teaching kids, especially kids who might be struggling with their sexuality. I don’t care if he did post that crap during his own time. If he said something racist, no one would care if he posted it on his own time or not.

  5. TyInTenn says

    If you’ve been a parent long enough, you will find that kids don’t listen – period – let alone to a teacher. You think he’s the only biggot teacher in the U.S. What ever happened to freedom of speech? I am sure all of you have never said anything bad about anyone in/on a public setting. If we would quit judging everyone and get on with out lives, people would be more accepting of us – don’t you think?

  6. Tarun says

    The question isn’t just whether we approve of him or would want him teaching. The idea that our personal communications can be used when a) not on work time or in a work place b) not to students in any capacity and c) not to colleagues in their work capacity is very scary.

    It doesn’t seem like a big deal here because we don’t like the guy, but this is the same method that has lead to so many other individuals being fired for, say, critiquing their bosses on Facebook.

    Yes, we are not always free to do what we wish and teachers are amongst many other professions guided by their own professional standards and codes of behavior. It isn’t enough that just anyone “might” have seen this posting. Making statements to subordinates (or in this case students) is one thing because we know that even social settings outside work are always underwritten by the same power relations of employment. Making these statements to a vague collection of people, including colleagues whom he is interacting with socially is a different thing.

    This ass aside, it’s a really dangerous precedent. Think of all the repression in London right now, or SFO last week, or Egypt before that. We’re willingly giving up whatever little bit of power governments and corporations don’t yet have.

  7. says

    “If we would quit judging everyone and get on with out lives, people would be more accepting of us – don’t you think?”

    Wrong, and I can explain WHY you’re wrong.

    You’re saying “we need to quit judging” – wrong. The anti-gay bigot needs to quit judging. You need to understand that it’s not actually “intolerance” to refuse to tolerate intolerance.

    For real. You cant’ say we’re in the “wrong” for not accepting his stance of non-acceptance.

    Please attempt to understand this.

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech? He spoke freely, the SPECIFICITIES of what he said got him in trouble. Why do Americans always scream “Freedom of Speech” when it’s clear that most don’t actually know what they’re talking about when they say that?

    This is not about “saying something bad” – it’s about a teacher of SOCIAL STUDIES making bigoted comments that wholly contradict what Social Studies are about.

    Please, for the love of your country read some books on logic.

  8. says

    There’s a difference between “bitching about your boss” and espousing anti-gay bigotry.

    just as there’s a difference between me complaining about a day at work and someone else complaining about “all those damned negroes”

    can y’all please apply some intellectual discernment?

  9. dws says

    If he is not making these remarks in the classroom, or otherwise communicating these offensive opinions, it’s none of his employer’s business.

    And, Kiwi, within certain constraints, it is PRECISELY the “specificities” of his speech that are protected. Free speech isn’t free if you can’t state your opinions, as horrible and offensive as they might be. The school district has no legitimate interest in his perfectly legal speech, even if it is hateful and bigoted.

  10. Bryan says

    Mr. Buell’s suspension is as appalling as our community’s smug insistence on branding all dissent as “hate” is ridiculous. I don’t hate Christianists, but I find their faith ludicrous and the actions many of them base on it appalling. I consider myself free to express my views in any public forum. So long as I practice tolerance and courtesy at work, those views are not my employer’s concern and I would hire a lawyer in response to any attempt to interfere with my expression of them.

    This is an obscene violation of Mr. Buell’s Constitutional right to freedom of expression. He broke no law and in no way betrayed his students or the standards of his profession. If bigotry expressed outside the workplace is considered grounds for dismissal, most of America will be unemployed. If simply holding socially unpopular views renders one unemployable, a great many LGBTQ Americans will be unemployed.

    “And the way you interpret things, Mr. Buell, happens to be hateful.”

    Shame on you. In addition to being smug, precious, and as irrelevant as it is unsupported, that statement is so noxiously hypocritical that I’m honestly outraged to find it expressed in an LTGBQ forum by a self-styled journalist. Mr. Buell is being persecuted for nothing more than expressing an unpopular opinion. Far from gloating, this would be an excellent time for gay people everywhere to stand by their principles and demand his reinstatement.

    We aren’t in junior high and ethics aren’t a popularity contest. Once and for all, freedom of speech is antithetical to the desire to hear only what pleases you.

  11. Justin Werner says

    Yes, he was hateful. But if he was expressing his opinion without school association or resources, the school should have nothing to say about it.

  12. Codswallop says

    I’m was little “iffy” about this too at first, but there’s a simple test you can do to see whether a situation is fair or not. Just switch “gay” for “Jewish” or “Black” and think about what the response to the same event would have been.

    “In response to a recent advance in rights for Jews, a Florida social studies teacher posted on his Facebook page that “he almost threw up.”

    Yeah, that’d go over REAL big! So screw him.

  13. Keith says

    Interesting points on both sides of this debate; however, after careful consideration, I fall on the side of those who argue he shouldn’t have been suspended. Many of us who work in public life must put aside our personal belief systems while working in as public officials. However, once the clock has struck at the end of the day, and one is home, that part of one’s life should be free of such restrictions and one should be allowed freedom of expression (whether objectionable or not). It’s no different than arguments by anti-gay organizations against LGBT community members teaching in the classroom. As long as one is focused on teaching the curriculum, and having an honest and factual dialogue with students, I see no problem with someone espousing personal beliefs on their personal time in whatever manner they see fit. [Note: This doesn’t mean that there aren’t ramifications of such public disclosures of personal beliefs, but as long as it doesn’t prevent the teacher from being effective in the classroom, then what’s the issue?]

  14. says

    When are people going to start realizing that Facebook is a PUBLIC forum. It may have been on his own time, and on his own computer, but his comments were not private and were not intended to be private.

    There is an argument to be made that he was within his free speech rights, since he was not representing the school, but he’s being disingenuous or blind when he says the remarks aren’t hateful. Any gay student in his classes would feel highly uncomfortable having a teacher who states publicly that gay families (i.e. the family that student will belong to) are a cesspool and make him want to puke.

    Whenever anyone makes a comment on Facebook (unless it’s in a private message, not open to others), you better be willing to stand by that statement and be proud of it. Free speech has consequences when you use it to diminish others. At the very least he deserves to be called on his comments, and he is.

  15. says

    “We don’t want people like that teaching our children” . . . Jeezus, people, where have we heard THAT before? Notice how quickly the language of intolerance – and plain old snootiness – is adopted here.

    Which just goes to prove the old, old story – being oppressed does not necessarily make you wiser, kinder, or enlightened. Both history and today’s papers are full of examples to show that it is just one tiny step from being oppressed to being an oppressor. And a really mean, haughty, ugly one at that.

    I totally disagree with Mr. Buell’s attitude, and I hope it changes, just as I hope all my deeply conservative relatives have a similar change of heart and mind one day. But in the meantime, Mr. Buell made the remark well away from his job and his students, and in my opinion is firmly within his Consitutional right to do so.

    The First Amendment doesn’t give you the right ONLY to agree with the next guy, ya know buds? Nor does it guarantee you will never hear anything you don’t like. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech. Deal with it.

    Because tomorrow it will be your ass on the line over some small but politcally incorrect remark. And you won’t like that a damn bit.

  16. jim says

    “It wasn’t out of hatred,” he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “It was about the way I interpret things.”

    Ok, Jerry, interpret this: “F&*k you.” Btw, I didn’t say that out of hatred, just an overall feeling of being fed up with bigots.

  17. says

    This is why you Americans don’t have Equality, and why Canada is more than 20 years ahead of you. Clearly too many of you have no concept of how to intellectually discern.

    His free speech was not stifled. He said something bigoted and is being criticized for it. This is how it works.

    But seriously, you guys defending his “right to these opinions” are the reason LGBT Equality in America is so behind – you pick the wrong battles for the wrong reasons.

    Ugh.

  18. Miles says

    @Russ Manley–
    “Freedom of speech means freedom of speech. Deal with it.” Sorry it does not mean what you are trying to make it mean. First off, it mean “speaking out” (speach, book, etc) against the government and you are safe from the government jailing for censoring you.

    IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SPEAKING YOUR MIND ABOUT NON GOVERNMENT ISSUES.

    Secondly even IF it meant what you think it does, it does not say anything about the speaker being free from retaliation (from a non government entity) regarding the remarks. Deal with it.

  19. says

    Some people actually want this guy teaching children? Seriously?

    Russ, it’s not “snooty” to be against having a teacher who would consider a gay student in his classroom as part of a cesspool or worthy of making him want to vomit. If he’s willing to make such remarks publicly, on Facebook, there is a legitimate question as to whether he’d be able to treat gay students fairly in the classroom. It’s not just that he publicly opposes equal rights for all his students (or, potentially, their parents) but that he believes it’s fine to state that opposition publicly in a hateful and juvenile manner with no repercussions. He has the right to say whatever he wants, but demonstrating public hatred towards a class of people, some of whom are under your instruction, shows severely bad judgment. It’s not unusual for school teachers to get fired for showing poor judgment in public–that’s why it’s being investigated, as it should be.

    I, and any sensible person, would never make a statement on Facebook that I would not be willing to stand by and rationally defend if necessary. If I made hateful statements, particularly if I was in public education, I would full expect to potentially lose my job.

  20. says

    Furthermore, it was policy that social media is not considered private, which he should have realized:

    “School districts across Florida have recently adopted policies on how teachers should use social media. In Orange County Schools, teachers are reminded their ‘private use of internet and social networking is not private’ and employees should remain professional in using the communication at all times.”

    Teachers or public employees who oppose such policies should probably work to have them rejected before they start spouting bigotry on Facebook. Otherwise, they’re knowingly violating adopted policy and subject to the consequences of that violation. Clearly he was not “professional” in his disgusting little rants.

  21. says

    Little Kiwi is right: I think it also has to do with balance bias, the idea that there are two sides to every issue and they both have equal weight. So if you have a news program on marriage, you have to give the bigots equal opportunity. Students make this mistake all the time.

    Sometimes one side is right, and the other is wrong.

  22. Gregv says

    @Bryan: An example of an “unpopular opinion” would be: “I like oatmeal at dinner.”
    To imply that some of his students do not deserve basic respect under the law is dehumanizing and hostile.

    @Keith: There is no comparison between this case and the case of an anti-gay group objecting to a gay teacher just because of who he/she is.
    To make your hypothetical case equivalent, we would need to imagine NOT an anti-hate group but a group committed to equality who want that gay teacher dismissed because he/she posted comments that straight people are disgusting and deserve to be treated as less than gay people…. Or perhaps that females are stupid inferiors to men or that blacks should be out of schools and back on the plantations.
    In such more truly parallel cases, it would be far more reasonable to question that imaginary gay teacher’s suitability to preside over a classroom of diverse students.

  23. eds says

    The first amendment gives you the right to say whatever you want within reason it does not however make you immune from the consequences of those words

  24. Grover Underwood says

    EDS hit it on the head-the government is not penalizing him for what he said-his employer is. What he said reflects poorly on his employer-the Lake County school system.

    Any fool should know that what you put on a social media site like Facebook is public no matter how much you say it’s not.

  25. RedOnTheGreg says

    I think this incident represents the proverbial slippery slope that could come back to haunt us. If expressing one’s opinion via social media is a fireable offense, who gets to decide what opinions are worthy of such action? On the surface, this may be a feel good, pro-gay rights story, but if freedom of speech matters to us, we should be concerned. It’s no less unconstitutional than firing teachers in Tennessee for saying the word gay, even if it does feel better on the surface.

  26. Mick says

    @Qj201, If he had been making the comments in his classroom you would have a stronger argument but he said them on his facebook page. Is anyone with a prejudice or a bias really unemployable? If so, we would all be without a job. I won’t be inviting this teacher over to my house for dinner but suspending him from his job seems inappropriate to me.

    And when you say you don’t want “such people” teaching children, you sound exactly like the bigots who say the same thing about gays.

  27. RJ says

    @MICK… Nonsense. You bring up tired false equivalency. As others have said, not all sides are equal. If that hypothetical gay teacher were a bigot, I would also say I wouldn’t want such a person teaching children.

  28. macmantoo says

    You can’t stop people from hating. He has his rights under the first amendments. Whether he can be a teacher is something else.

    If he said it to the kids he’s teaching then he should be fired, but if he didn’t then he should be left alone. Do I like it? No, but bigots and racist will be bigots and racists. By making a stink about it will do nothing more than incite more hatred.

  29. says

    why does my Canadian ass know more about the first amendment than half of you do?

    there are not two sides to every story. this is not some bogus “ooohhh, slippery slope!” nonsense scenario.

    “omg! what if, like, one day someone doesn’t like what WE say and it’s used against us!”

    congrats, you just failed 6th grade debate.

    this is not a case of “someoone saying something someone didn’t like” but a specific case of anti-gay prejudice in a public sphere by a person in a position of power with youths as an EDUCATOR.

    of SOCIAL STUDIES.

    imagine, if you will (as other commenters have pointed out) a teacher of American History making comments about “ni***rs” and “k**es” and “wetbacks” on his facebook page.

    yeah. there’d be outrage. justifiably.

    those of you who think it’s “wrong” for him to be reprimanded need to grow a spine and a brain.

  30. eds says

    In Massachusetts in 2008 a state law that was on the books since 1913 that prevented interracial couples from other states where it was illegal from coming to MA to marry (it was pulled out again and used in 2003 against same sex couples) was repealed if this man had said that made him want to puke would we even be having this discussion? I don’t think we would he would be branded a bigot a racist and he would be out of a job not just suspended
    so I say yes he should be called out on his words it’s not the same as the people saying it “about gays” for the simple reason there wrong and saying it from a place of hate and we shouldn’t be afraid to point that out

  31. Mike says

    I’m gay. I married my husband 4 years ago, and I’m a special education teacher. This incident disturbs me. I understand that Florida teachers have a social media policy, but it seems like his page was not for everyone to see. Yes, I disagree with his views on marriage. However, it also says he was Teacher of the Year. He could be a good teacher, and they are hard to come by. I just want to know more about his classroom environment. I’m wondering if students had access to his page and if he openly discussed these views in school. If he did, then I agree that he should be let go. I want to know more. I’m concerned about freedom of speech and privacy. Are we saying teachers can have no opinion on their own time? Where are we drawing the line? When would I be off the clock? There are still several states in our union in which my job can be terminated because I’m gay. EDNA hasn’t passed yet. Heck, typing this on my own time could theoretically put my job at risk…

  32. MrJ says

    The reason the liberal construct doesn’t work as well as the conservative one is that liberals will attack other liberals in order to take some supposed high road. You think conservatives would be complaining that someone spreading his liberal views had been disciplined? No, they’d be cheering. You don’t get a Liberal High Road Prize, so quit looking for it you pansies, and just be glad a bigot got reprimanded. A bigot who called you a cesspool. Google cesspool, if this still isn’t clear.

  33. eds says

    his facebook page was public enough to land it on here before I figured out the settings could Google my name and see half my facebook page I can Google half my friends and see theirs the facebook is private argument is bogus

  34. says

    If the person who said this was baby setting my children, I would fire him. I would tell them, you have the right to say and think whatever you want. I have the right to say, I don’t accept it and I don’t want you around my children.

    And, I have the right to know what habits, thoughts and ideas anyone who is in charge of my children have on or off the job if I am thinking of giving them association with my children.

    This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. He was free to speak and he spoke. Now I am free to say stay away from my children.

  35. Leo says

    The expectations laid out for this teacher on a contract he likely signed before working as teacher overrules “free speech outside of class/slippery slope” BS arguments being made here. The proof is in the statement Ernie already posted:

    “School districts across Florida have recently adopted policies on how teachers should use social media. In Orange County Schools, teachers are reminded their ‘private use of internet and social networking is not private’ and employees should remain professional in using the communication at all times.”

    So there is an understanding in these school districts that “professional” conduct includes not calling the possible marriages of some students he may have ended up teaching part of a “cesspool”. What a concept.

    He’s allowed to communicate bigotry outside of the classroom. Fine. BUT – social media was clearly stated to him as still being part of the professional class environment. He communicated bigotry on social media. He was fired, and it was justified. END OF STORY.

  36. mount dora jim says

    I know Mr Buel and disagree with his statement. A few issues though. The “policy” has not been published to the teachers yet. It is supposed to go out in 2 weeks. You can’t hold an employee accountable for an unpublished policy.

    Second, I would like to thank everyone who sees that we are slipping down a slope where we all could end up in the same place he is for any reason if we continue to censor ourselves out of existence.

    Your compassion for ones like Mr Buel will do great things for acceptance from those who need to understand equality.

  37. eds says

    I’ve seen a lot of people say they’re afraid of calling him on his hate speech because it is going to make it harder for other people not screaming hate to speak their mind an argument I will never understand and I’ve seen people say he can say what he wants and not be ridiculed because he said it in “private“on the INTERNET! I haven’t seen one person say he didn’t have the right to say what he said but he should not and cannot expect immunity when he does it in public and I don’t care where on the internet he says it it’s the internet it’s all public

  38. Chitown Kev says

    My question here is when you do something like teach at a public school, then that’s usually under a contract.

    I am assuming that those contracts have some sort of morals clause that would be inclusive even of what you do in your off time.

    So my question here is…what does his contract say. IF there’s a morals clause, then the school is within its’ rights to suspend him and possibly to fire him.

  39. says

    Wow, still amazing to me how many of you apologists are allowing him the “free speech” excuse and thinking we all could be in jeopardy if you can’t have an opinion on Facebook. Rational opinion is one thing, denigrating those who you may be teaching is quite another. No one, gay or straight, should get away with it.

    If a gay person went on Facebook, a clearly public forum, that any number of his students would have access to, and said Christians make him want to puke and that Christian families are cesspools (or substitute Jews, blacks, Muslims, handicapped etc.), that person, particularly if they worked in public education and it was their job to make all students welcome in their classroom, should fully expect to face consequences. Facebook is public! It is not professional for a teacher to make obviously hateful (not simply a difference of opinion, rationally argued) statements that serve no purpose beyond provoking animosity.

    As for not holding the employee responsible for a policy that hasn’t reached all teachers yet. Come on–such policies (social media is public, public employees don’t have the right to publish inflammatory statements there without consequences) aren’t rocket science, or rare. They’re common sense.

    As for the argument, we could all end up in the same place he’s in: Wrong. I, and most people I know, would NEVER publish such vile, deliberately hurtful comments on a public forum. Civilized people don’t label a class of people cesspools and vomit-worthy. That argument does not hold water. It’s not even an argument. If you can’t stand behind what you say on social media, and are in a public sensitive occupation, don’t say it. Or do say it, and be willing to face the music.

    The article sees this so much more clearly than some of you. Read it, folks.

  40. InscrutableTed says

    Teachers get fired all the time for stuff that happens outside of the classroom. You hear about teachers getting fired if they made a sex tape or had a threesome. Hell, parents get angry if a teacher is seen smoking.

    Mr Buell should have known better.

    And BTW, I don’t want him teaching my kids.

  41. RJ says

    @Mount Dora… This issue has NOTHING to do with LGBT equality. False equivalency again.

    How about some compassion for the students in his classroom? Do you think it is at all appropriate for a self-admitted bigot to be in the position to teach and influence children in a public school? Some of whom might be LGBT or come from LGBT families?

    There is NO rational slippery slope argument that applies. If any of us profess bigotry just like he did, we should expect similar condemnation and deservedly so.

  42. Chris says

    I’ll jump in on the “uncomfortable” side of things, here. I’m a teacher with plenty of Facebook posts that could expose me to charges of being partisan, anti-Christian, man-hating, or ‘reverse racist’, if some conservatives were judging. My posts are only visible to my network, and while I am not naive enough to think that they are ‘private’, I’m not willing to concede Facebook should be legally considered a public forum. Teachers and public employees should have free speech rights in the private sphere, and we should defend them. And yes, this includes private hate speech.

    The ‘intellectual discernment’ that Kiwi describes is well and good for judging the this teacher’s opinions and deeming them less valid than yours or mine. But it doesn’t mean much in a disciplinary proceeding or court case that will decide whether this guy keeps his job. Like it or not, ‘hate speech’ doesn’t take you very far in the legal realm, and his dismissal would be bad news for those of us with strong politics of whatever persuasion. So even though he sees me as a rank, emetic, hellbound sinner, I hope that he’s not fired for this.

    Once anyone smells a whiff of homophobia in his classroom, though, or in a real public venue — his ass is gone.

  43. Chris says

    *Hate speech doesn’t get you very far, in the US, that is. And Kiwi, I just saw your comment above. If there’s 1st Amendment case law that would protect me and not this guy, please post it.

  44. Chris says

    **And P.P.S.: just because Florida has issued guidelines for teachers’ use of social media, that doesn’t mean that the guidelines are constitutional.

  45. says

    The man has a right to his own bigoted opinions! What’s next, 1984? He didn’t say it at school and doesn’t teach it in his classroom as far as we know. Sensitivity has gone far too far in censoring freedoms – ugly and otherwise.

  46. ohplease says

    “Second, I would like to thank everyone who sees that we are slipping down a slope where we all could end up in the same place he is for any reason if we continue to censor ourselves out of existence.”

    Mount Dora Jim, you are an idiot and a fool. Fictional god forbid you are a teacher, too. Regardless, what the hell is wrong with you people in Florida?

    All the correct points regarding this have already been made and you’ve obviously ignored every single last one of them. If you want to defend a hateful idiotic bigot, then I’m sure you’d feel the same way if he made these comments about blacks or Jews. And if that’s true, I only wish there was an actual hell for you to burn in for all eternity.

    And if it’s not true, then you don’t mind hateful idiotic bigotry when it’s directed towards only gay people, in which case my comment about my wish for an actual hell is still applicable.

  47. Rowan says

    Little Kiwi +1000000000

    And wow. You Americans are OBSESSED with free speech. It scares me to think what you actually write on your social networks as PUBLIC authority figures. PUBLIC AUTHORITY FIGURES.

    I’m self employed so I can write anything as I am not EMPLOYED by the sate.

    And it’s true that you will never get full gay rights equality in the US. It’s never going to happen and your battle should stick to states. You’re all too obsessed with any form of hatred and to at home with bigotry.

    Fascinating thread this. Especially from people saying that he wrote it on his Facebook but that doesn’t make him rejoice in front of his class. Ahem. So like Hitler could be a teacher to Jews but as long as he doesn’t bring his opinions to class and simply leaves them outside when gassing them, it’s ok.

    Hmm, in the UK, we look at teachers as open minded, respectful, intelligent, honorable and empathetic members of society. That’s literally is what is said on the job specification. We also look for people with knowledge of diversity and current affairs.

    I guess in the US, you guys don’t look for anything of substance but as long as he can spell?

  48. Chris says

    I am not going to comment on the validity of this specific situation…this is directed at everyone talking about “Freedom of Speech”. Freedom of Speech is specifically applies to government interference, if he had been arrested for what he said, “Freedom of Speech” would apply. However, Freedom of Speech does NOT mean freedom from consequences. Jobs, relationships, or just public scorn are not protected in any way…so PLEASE stop talking about his “Freedom of Speech”

  49. Jeff says

    Well, that’s a social studies fail.

    Seriously, you really need to understand your freedom of speech better. This is a state agency making a judgement of speech based on its content. If you’re willing to see this guy let go, then you would therefore have to support a teacher in Wyoming getting fired for supporting the same issue. It’s an opinion which is not in-line with community standards.

    Or, you could just be interpretting the first amendment to say that you have the right to any opinions which I agree with.

    Let’s not even talk about the “influence” this guy has. A teacher…who students will have for 1 year…one hour a day…180 days….is going to over-ride his upbringing and personal experiences?

    I mean, it’s pretty cut and dry – he’s been reprimanded for having an opinion which others disagree with – an exact contradiction to the spirit of free speech.

  50. says

    @Chris: If you’re a teacher using hate speech on public social media–and Facebook is public, not private–then maybe you too should reconsider what you’re doing. There are ways to express opinions without using hate speech that denigrates some of your students. Denigrating a class of people in public, for no reason other than to provoke animosity, puts into question your ability to treat all your students fairly. Why would anyone, particularly someone in a sensitive public job, want to spout hatred on a public forum. I really don’t get it.

    I have a young niece who’s a public school teacher. She expresses opinions on FB, but she does so without malice and with the understanding that her statements reflect her role as a teacher. She would no more spout hateful things about some of her students and their families than she would appear naked in class. It’s really not that difficult to be civil and to protect your public dignity while you’re protecting your job. Mr. Buell appears to have failed the basic human decency test, while also violating policy. (If a teacher opposes a policy, and thinks it’s unconstitutional, better to spend time overturning it rather than spouting bigotry on public forums.)

  51. says

    I believe he should have receive a warning not to do it again. I do believe in freedom of speech, but it has its limits. Many gay teachers say “strange” things in their off hours… just as non-gay teachers. The most important thing is what they do and say when they are in the classroom. That being said…
    maybe he should be given another assignment then teach in Social Studies.

  52. Robert in NYC says

    Freedom of speech laws are hypocritical. On the one hand, nobody is allowed to threaten the life of a politician by verbalizing it; nobody is allowed to shout “fire” in a theater, but everybody is allowed to call for the death of a minority, such as the Fred Phelps gang and a lot of other right wing republican fundamentalists. We do not have total freedom of speech, what we have is censorship which isn’t about freedom of speech at all.

  53. Chris says

    I think I have been misunderstood. My statement about freedom of speech isnt defending this man…my point is that his freedom of speech (as mentioned many times in comments) DOESN’T protect his job, and he can be held accountable by his employer.

    And to whoever said it was a “social studies fail” I suggest reeducating yourself. The Freedom of Speech clause is protection for governmental reprisal of speech (i.e. arrest) It doesn’t protect anyone from the consequences of that speech, including losing a job. I am just tired of people saying “What about his freedom of speech” when it obviously doesn’t apply.

  54. Jack says

    @MILES:

    “First off, it mean “speaking out” (speach, book, etc) against the government and you are safe from the government jailing for censoring you.

    IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SPEAKING YOUR MIND ABOUT NON GOVERNMENT ISSUES.”

    It’s you that clearly has the issue with not understanding the First Amendment. It doesn’t say Congress shall make no law outlawing speech about the government. It contains no qualifier on the content of the speech. Otherwise, the First Amendment wouldn’t protect things like pornography, which it does.

    Furthermore, even if it DOES mean what YOU think it does, you’re still wrong. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but gay marriage IS A GOVERNMENT ISSUE right now.

    “Secondly even IF it meant what you think it does, it does not say anything about the speaker being free from retaliation (from a non government entity) regarding the r’emarks. Deal with it.”

    Hate to break it to you, but a school district/board is a government entity. That’s been settled law for ages.

  55. Troy says

    I’m sure Florida is a hire/fire at will state. The school probably needs no reason to fire anyone. They just can. And in this case, he should be fired because he’s obviously not smart enough to teach this subject effectively based on evidence of his poor judgment, not based on what he actually posted on his Facebook page.

    At the very least, if I were a parent at this school, I would insist that my son not be placed in his class since his other gay dad and I will be marrying in New York this coming June.

  56. MattS says

    While I think this may be grounds to keep a close eye on this teacher, I don’t think what he does in his private life should be grounds for dismissal. I remember a story about an elementary school teacher who, on her own time, wrote racy novels and sold them.

    What if instead this guy had attended a NOM rally? We have to be very careful about limiting the free actions of other people because we “know” we are right. People who oppressed us for decades “knew” they were right.

  57. Chitown Kev says

    @Matt S

    Well, to my way of thinking WE aren’t limiting his actions but there probably are loosely constructed clauses in his contract that COULD limit his actions (depending on the interpretation).

    To me, his contract and the interpretation of that contract is really the crux of the matter.

  58. says

    Facebook is not your private life. It is your public representation of yourself. To suggest otherwise, misunderstands the nature of social media. The problem was not that he had an opinion, but that he used a public forum to denigrate a class of people, gay people, specifically gay families, some of whom are in his classroom. It went against educational policy that says how you represent yourself on social media reflects on your professional life. His deliberately provocative and inflammatory hate speech, on a public forum, has the potential to create a hostile environment in his classroom for some students. What gay parent or parent with a gay child would want that child in a classroom run by someone who’s willing to publicly declare their family a vomit inducing cesspool? This isn’t only a free speech issue. It’s an issue of the kind of public civility we can expect from people who serve as role models for young people.

  59. anon says

    Good lord! Unless you are an expert in constitutional law, please refrain from offering opinions on a topic like this. However anyone here would like to think this should play out, there are umpteen similar cases that have played out in the courts. Here’s what would happen if he got fired: he’d sue and win damages. I’m not clear on the terms of his suspension, but given this is the summer, it’s probable it involves no loss of income. He might sue to clear his employment record, but he’ll probably first go through administrative channels. It doesn’t matter what you think should be the case, at this point in time, first amendment case law is very much on his side. On top of that, add union and civil service protections.

  60. says

    Actually, anon, teachers have been fired or have resigned after Facebook comments became public knowledge (which happens often, since they’re, duh, public), particularly when there are policies that speak to social media usage, so to suggest he won’t lose his job over this, or be pressured to resign, isn’t necessarily the case at all. Law on his side or not, he may be out of a job.

  61. Attmay says

    If I had kids and I found someone like that teaching them I would pull them out of school in an instant.

    These “people” shouldn’t be allowed near kids in any setting.

  62. Dan Cobb says

    The fact is that statements made “off the clock” obviously express how a person feels when they’re “on the clock”. Can you imagine a triage nurse or ER doctor saying denigrating things about blacks on their FB page? Don’t you think the administration of that hospital might be concerned about that ER doctor passing over more seriously ill black patients in favor of white patients? And what an enormous problem with liability that might incur!! Or how about the person who road tests individuals who are trying to get their driver’s license? Were someone to post something about how they hate Asians might make an Asian think they flunked their test because of racism. Etc. Etc.
    The fact is that an employer/ either public or private/ should be able to fire or suspend anyone who corrupts the mission and purpose of the business. And fortunately that is the law of the land in the USA.

  63. Dan Cobb says

    TO those of you who think that this man’s freedom of expression has been violated, you completely fail to understand the rights under the Constitution. Can you please tell me how this man’s expression has been limited? He posted on FB –no one has stopped him from expressing EVERY opinion he cares to express. I suppose if this moron had called his boss a flaming f’king piece of dogcrap who can’t administer a school… that he should be completely free to say that AND retain his job! The fact is that you are confusing his right to say what he wants with a right to say what he wants AND retain his job. No one has a constitutional right to say what he wants AND to retain his job. YOu seem to think such a right exists in the Constitution –it does not. NO ONE is limiting his right to say whatever he wants, but he has to suffer the commerical (his job) consequences if such expressions undermine the mission of his employer (school district’s mission = teaching in an environment that is not fraught with fear and loathing).

  64. danimal1st says

    Welcome to Nazi Germany. Free speach is only free for those “tolerant” liberals. How dare he voice his opinion. Do you also believe the Bible should be censored? Is this book “hateful”? So, now that we established the baseline, lets censor religion while we’re at it. Everything goes as long as it follows the liberal agenda. This was posted on his personal social media page, on his time, on his equipment. Good bye America :(

  65. says

    @DANIMAL1ST: Right, exactly like Nazi Germany. He’s being sent to the ovens as we speak. The stupidity boggles the rational mind.

    Personal social media pages are PUBLIC, not private. No one stopped him from voicing his hatred. Likewise, the school has the right to think his hate speech creates a hostile environment in the classroom for students and the right to investigate whether denigrating a class of people on a public social media forum is against school policy and against the best interests of his students. Having the right to speak isn’t the same as the right to say anything anywhere without consequences.

    A “liberal” making similarly hateful remarks on FB would and should face the same consequences.

    No one is censoring the Bible or religion, idiot.

  66. says

    To all of those who are sitting here saying “hey, we need to not be eman to this teacher, this is about freedom of speech!”

    uh, no. it’s not. re-read the constitution. this is not about the first amendment, nor is anyone in any way suppressing his “freedom of speech”

    i don’t understand why so many Americans are unable to distinguish between what “types” of comments are made, and why.

    it’s not “saying something mean” or “saying something you don’t like” or “saying something unpopular.”

    there are indeed ramifications for what one says. how are his comments any different from anti-Semitism? Racism? simple – they’re NOT.

    and those of you who can’t see that are likely still sucking up to anti-gay parents with your balls in your mouth, telling yourselves that your way of doing things is far superior, despite the fact that your parents still think you’re a lowly second-class homosexual

    ugh.

  67. says

    I don’t know why “MOUNT DORA JIM” thinks he’s so great. Newsflash – you apparently “know” Mr. Buell and yet your gay ass has, so far, been unsuccessful in changing his bigoted views.

    so, what’s the deal? You’re gay, you know him personally, and he still is anti-gay. Is this because you’re a lousy representative of gay people and his anti-gay views come from interactions with you? or is it because you’re lazy and missing a spine and simply don’t have it in you to stand up to, challenge, and defy his bigotry?

    either way, you failed to make a point. you’re a gay man, who claims to know this guy, and so far you’ve been utterly unsuccessful in changing his anti-gay views.

    yeah. glad he was fired. maybe NOW he’ll get it.

  68. ThinkFirst says

    While I 100% agree that we need more privacy and that this teacher did post this on his own personal time, this comment wouldn’t fly if it was that black marriage made him puke.

    In the end, if you’re IGNORANT ENOUGH to have a Facebook page and post things that may hinder your professional career, don’t post them. If you do, your lack of IQ simply shines through for the world to deservingly see.
    If I post that my boss is an a**hole and he sees it, pretty much my fault for being so dumb to post that on social media and can’t expect my boss and I to be on civil terms after such.
    Some people may find the marriage issue as a debate. I find it as real LGBT families and nice people are for marriage equality, and people against it are either bigots for religious reasons or just anti-gay bigots for the purpose of hurting others that they hate.
    The pro arguments for these extremely unintelligent people would support him saying anything offensive in his private time, but Facebook is just not “private time”. It’s everyone’s time, and not just a statement made to one person or party. Saying hateful things on his own time is clearly not the same as saying hateful things on Facebook. The issue isn;t that he’s anti-gay, it’s that he’s anti-gay and an expressed it in one of the most IDIOTIC public ways possible. If you do not wish for the world to be upset about Facebook postings, DON’T POST THEM. Facebook Privacy settings can’t save you, only common sense will.

  69. Mike says

    It’s upsetting that this teacher will act like he did nothing wrong, the students will get pissed that he was suspended, and those nasty comments will live on forever. Not to mention the obviously gay students that will feel alienated and hated by this teacher. Free speech or not, he made a mess. And it’s not a simple comment about ‘marriage’. He used the term cesspool. It’s hate.

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