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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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Comments

  1. "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.

    Posted by: ohplease | Aug 18, 2011 3:13:25 AM


  2. 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?

    Posted by: Rowan | Aug 18, 2011 6:50:28 AM


  3. 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"

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 18, 2011 7:29:36 AM


  4. 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.

    Posted by: Jeff | Aug 18, 2011 8:00:07 AM


  5. @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.)

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 18, 2011 8:19:40 AM


  6. 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.

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | Aug 18, 2011 8:27:32 AM


  7. 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.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Aug 18, 2011 8:44:51 AM


  8. 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.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 18, 2011 9:24:50 AM


  9. @Mount Dora Jim: If you know Mr. Buell, you might want to learn to spell his name. You misspelled it twice in your brief post.

    Posted by: Paul R | Aug 18, 2011 9:50:10 AM


  10. @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.

    Posted by: Jack | Aug 18, 2011 10:06:37 AM


  11. 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.

    Posted by: Troy | Aug 18, 2011 10:12:24 AM


  12. Opinions are not consequence free and never have been.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Aug 18, 2011 10:36:37 AM


  13. Exactly, FENROX, and free speech is usually defended because of those expressing hate.

    Posted by: nikko | Aug 18, 2011 10:42:46 AM


  14. 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.

    Posted by: MattS | Aug 18, 2011 11:03:17 AM


  15. @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.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Aug 18, 2011 11:07:40 AM


  16. Suspending a teacher for what he says in his private life plays into the right wing argument that they are being stifled by political correctness. We need more free speech, not less.

    Posted by: David Johnson | Aug 18, 2011 11:20:30 AM


  17. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 18, 2011 1:41:05 PM


  18. 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.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 18, 2011 2:19:41 PM


  19. 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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 18, 2011 3:26:57 PM


  20. 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.

    Posted by: Attmay | Aug 18, 2011 4:57:12 PM


  21. 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.

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Aug 20, 2011 6:02:34 AM


  22. 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).

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Aug 20, 2011 6:07:18 AM


  23. 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 :(

    Posted by: danimal1st | Aug 20, 2011 9:55:12 AM


  24. @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.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 20, 2011 10:50:19 AM


  25. 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.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Aug 20, 2011 11:31:34 AM


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