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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. 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

    Posted by: eds | Aug 17, 2011 8:58:39 PM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Aug 17, 2011 9:11:03 PM

  3. 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.

    Posted by: RedOnTheGreg | Aug 17, 2011 9:14:29 PM

  4. @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.

    Posted by: Mick | Aug 17, 2011 9:26:45 PM

  5. Sorry Kiwi - I didn't realize they took you down off the cross.

    Posted by: TyInTenn | Aug 17, 2011 9:34:05 PM

  6. @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.

    Posted by: RJ | Aug 17, 2011 9:35:34 PM

  7. 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.

    Posted by: macmantoo | Aug 17, 2011 9:36:28 PM

  8. 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.


    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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 17, 2011 10:01:16 PM

  9. 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

    Posted by: eds | Aug 17, 2011 10:03:47 PM

  10. 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...

    Posted by: Mike | Aug 17, 2011 10:12:43 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: MrJ | Aug 17, 2011 10:21:44 PM

  12. 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

    Posted by: eds | Aug 17, 2011 10:22:39 PM

  13. 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.

    Posted by: Steve Pardue | Aug 17, 2011 10:24:17 PM

  14. 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.

    Posted by: Leo | Aug 17, 2011 10:25:07 PM

  15. 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.

    Posted by: mount dora jim | Aug 17, 2011 10:34:46 PM

  16. mount dora jim I may not be able to hold him to "the policy" but I can hold him to the standards of common decency

    Posted by: eds | Aug 17, 2011 10:43:05 PM

  17. 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

    Posted by: eds | Aug 17, 2011 11:03:52 PM

  18. 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.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Aug 17, 2011 11:07:23 PM

  19. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 17, 2011 11:55:19 PM

  20. 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.

    Posted by: InscrutableTed | Aug 18, 2011 12:12:07 AM

  21. @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.

    Posted by: RJ | Aug 18, 2011 12:38:46 AM

  22. 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.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 18, 2011 1:24:16 AM

  23. *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.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 18, 2011 1:35:42 AM

  24. **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.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 18, 2011 1:38:00 AM

  25. 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.

    Posted by: Jesse Archer | Aug 18, 2011 2:46:48 AM

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