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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.

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  1. 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?

    Posted by: Mick | Aug 17, 2011 6:37:16 PM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: Kevin_BGFH | Aug 17, 2011 6:44:59 PM

  3. As a human being with a functioning brain, I'm uncomfortable with an anti-gay bigot being allowed to teach "social studies."

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 6:47:43 PM

  4. 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.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Aug 17, 2011 6:49:38 PM

  5. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1385517057

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 6:52:51 PM

  6. 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.

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Aug 17, 2011 6:57:05 PM

  7. People with "objections" to marriage equality need to TAKE a social studies class, not TEACH one.

    Do we allow unrepentant racists to teach American History?

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 7:10:14 PM

  8. 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?

    Posted by: TyInTenn | Aug 17, 2011 7:11:30 PM

  9. 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.

    Posted by: Tarun | Aug 17, 2011 7:16:58 PM

  10. "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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 7:18:46 PM

  11. 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?

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 7:24:45 PM

  12. 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.

    Posted by: dws | Aug 17, 2011 7:33:30 PM

  13. 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.

    Posted by: Bryan | Aug 17, 2011 7:36:25 PM

  14. 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.

    Posted by: Justin Werner | Aug 17, 2011 7:45:25 PM

  15. 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.

    Posted by: Codswallop | Aug 17, 2011 7:45:39 PM

  16. 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?]

    Posted by: Keith | Aug 17, 2011 7:46:27 PM

  17. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 17, 2011 7:56:19 PM

  18. "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.

    Posted by: Russ Manley | Aug 17, 2011 7:59:10 PM

  19. "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.

    Posted by: jim | Aug 17, 2011 8:06:28 PM

  20. 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.


    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 8:12:33 PM

  21. @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.


    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.

    Posted by: Miles | Aug 17, 2011 8:14:45 PM

  22. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 17, 2011 8:21:20 PM

  23. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 17, 2011 8:33:16 PM

  24. 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.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 17, 2011 8:45:49 PM

  25. @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.

    Posted by: Gregv | Aug 17, 2011 8:53:49 PM

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