Teacher suspended for Facebook posting

Aug. 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Florida education officials have suspended a teacher from the classroom for his alleged Facebook postings about gay and lesbian marriages.

Jerry Buell, a former teacher of the year, was reassigned pending an investigation into comments he allegedly made on his Facebook page about homosexual marriages, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.

The long-time Lake County social studies teacher allegedly said in a recent Facebook posting he "almost threw up" in response to a news story about legalized gay marriages.

Buell said he didn't make the comments out of hatred and he didn't make them while at school, but at home, on his personal computer.

"It wasn't out of hatred," Buell told the Sentinel. "It was about the way I interpret things."

School districts statewide recently adopted guidelines on how teachers use social media. Orange County school teachers were reminded their "private use of internet and social networking is not private."

"Social media is a minefield," said Chris Patton, a communications officer for Lake County schools, which helped develop the guidelines. "People think they're free to say what they want to, but in some aspects it can come back to haunt you."

A former Mount Dora high school student, where Buell formerly taught, said he is disappointed in Buell's comments.

"This type of hateful language is dangerous not only to gay students, but also to anti-gay students," said Buell's now 27-year-old former student.

"I would hope a teacher would be there to help them and not hurt them," said Michael Slaymaker, president of the Orlando Youth Alliance, a support group for homosexual youth.

Buell said he didn't intend to hurt anyone with his postings.

"I've had kids that I've known that have been homosexuals," Buell said. "They know that I don't hate them. I love them."

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