EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this post wrong stated that Mr. Buell had been fired. The teacher is currently suspended and has not been terminated.
After seeing a CNN story about New York marriage equality on TV, former Mount Dora High School Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell posted a Facebook comment about how the “sin[ful]” “cesspool” made him “nearly vomit.” Now the school has suspended him and The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel to defend Mr. Buell. The school’s stupid over-reaction has forced me to write something I never thought I would: I agree with the Liberty Counsel.
The school district’s code of ethics prohibits “unbecoming” behavior that “disrupts the orderly processes of the district,” or denies the “worth and dignity of every person.” Yes, the sinful sight of two men kissing makes Mr. Buell wanna throw up his dinner, but the record so far shows him to be an exemplary educator who has never devalued any student. At this moment we do not know if he is Facebook friends with any of his students or whether his page was visible to the general public.
We do know that right now there are a few Facebook campaigns to get him reinstated and two colorfully named ones to keep him fired including, “Jerry Buell is so twisted ‘I think I may vomit’ and ‘Fire the Gay-Bashing Rat Jerry Buell.’
We should all oppose the school’s decision because it just as easily could apply to us. Think of it this way. You’re a teacher. You see a CNN story about a religious protest against gay marriage. It pisses you off. You get on Facebook and write “The Baptists and Catholics make wanna puke. When did this cesspool of hate and bigotry become publicly acceptable?” Then, the Baptist and Catholic members of your community complain and the school suspends you with the possibility of firing you.
You don’t bother asking which students are religious or not. Yeah, some of them might wear crosses or carry bibles or attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but you don’t actually care because you don’t let your personal viewpoint effect your teaching or care of students.
How do you feel about it now?