Bigoted Teacher Returns to Classroom, Would You Want Him Teaching Your Kids?

25 Aug

Bigoted Teacher Jerry Buell

There’s been a lot of discussion about a Florida teacher who took to his Facebook page to say that he “almost threw up” upon seeing a news story about marriage equality coming to New York.

He was initially suspended for the comment, but Superintendent Susan Moxley reinstated him today.

In school districts across the country, teachers are not permitted to use social media inappropriately, as anything that might be said will undoubtedly reflect upon the school district. In fact, there are stories all over about teachers losing their jobs over Facebook and Twitter comments they’ve made. What’s different about Buell’s story however, is there is a small army of very vocal, very homophobic people who are jumping to his defense claiming the school infringed upon Buell’s “First Amendment rights.”

Strangely enough, these defenders of free speech were not there to stand up for Massachusetts teacher, Dr. June Talvitie-Siple when she took to her Facebook page to say that the residents of the town she taught in were “arrogant and snobby.” She lost her job.

Or another Massachusetts teacher, Jon O’Keefe – who was fired for simply accepting students as “friends” on Facebook.

Or Iowa Catholic school teacher, Abby Nurre who lost her job over saying she didn’t believe in God on Facebook.

Ashley Payne was fired for having this photo on her Facebook page

And then there was the Georgia Public School teacher, Ashley Payne who, after a European vacation including some drinking, was fired for having a picture of herself on Facebook holding a glass of wine.

It’s really troublesome to fight for free speech for some and not all.

Queerty happened to archive a website they found regarding the experience of a gay student in Jerry Buell’s classroom. Unfortunately, the blogger has pulled the post from his site, but this account of a gay student’s experience in his classroom is certainly jarring. The original post appeared on AntiGayBigotryScaresMe.blogspot.com

The clearest and most specific example I can provide of Jerry Buell’s anti-gay remarks in the classroom happened my 11th grade year (2001-2002) during his American History course. Before explaining this occurrence, I would like to first comment on Mr. Buell’s classroom. Among several things hung around the room, Bible verses were spread across the walls, accented by a picture of Jesus Christ above the clock. While there may have been some additional quotes from other scholars and philosophers, the signs were predominantly Christian. And while, yes, Buell’s number one rule was/is Respect, I personally fail to find how those signs are equally respectful to other religions in a public school classroom or how his statement respects human life.

… a student provocatively asked Mr. Buell what he thoughts about gays in the military. I tensed, knowing full well the point of view to follow in Mr. Buell’s response.

I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back. Disgusted at the thought of violence and murder of humans being vocally supported, I shut my book and walked out of class, the only time I would ever do this during my educational career.

I returned at the closing bell to raise the issue with Mr. Buell. He noted my actions could be grounds for discipline, to which I countered by noting that his comments, if reported, would be the same. I also pointed out that the man in the picture hanging above the clock never advocated murdering another human being.

I didn’t report him then, and am sharing this story now to simply provide an example of Buell’s personal opinions infiltrating his classroom and teaching. His statements in recent media stories that he values students equally and loves his gay students I personally believe are inaccurate given my experiences as a student and alumni of his classrooms.

It should also be noted that Buell’s classroom syllabus states:

 “I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!”

If teachers can get fired for holding a glass of wine in a Facbook picture, calling the parents of their students “snobby,” saying they don’t believe in God or even adding students as “friends,” then how is a man who refuses to separate church and state and wish death upon his LGBT students – still teaching.

Wouldn’t it be great if GLSEN, The Trevor Project, HRC and the It Gets Better Project and all the other organizations fighting for our rights made a specific campaign to educate and empower the parents and students of this school?

I believe in the freedom of speech for all, however I also believe that those who use it to hate and oppress others should be held responsible for the things they say. And if the things they say are harmful to the people they are charged with educating in a public school, they should not be entitled to that job.

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7 Responses to “Bigoted Teacher Returns to Classroom, Would You Want Him Teaching Your Kids?”

  1. NG August 25, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    As a gay man, I believe we have enough problems as it is now and we don’t need to zealots acting as activists; because this is what happens. I suppose the other problem to speak of is Facebook. How did everyone drop the ball on this? I sort of know, but this is not the place for that.

    But now that we do have to deal with this guy, I would suggest everyone wake up Equality Florida and tell them there’a an anti-gay nutcase running around their state threatening gay kids.

    • Tobias Equality Packer August 31, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      Hey NG,

      I’m glad you thought of Equality Florida. We first sent out an action alert to our members last Tuesday and then yesterday sent an update.

      As of a few minutes ago 1,775 people have sent emails to the Lake County School Board calling for the passage of LGBT protections in the classroom.

      Check it out on our blog – http://eqfl.org/node/1232

      • Jamie McGonnigal August 31, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

        Hey Tobias,

        Did the blog post get pulled? There’s an error message on your link. Can you let us know the new location of the post?

        Thanks!

        Jamie

    • karmaz fool June 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      A couple of things that you all should consider. Firstly, he wouldn’t have Jesus pasted above a clock, usually the focal point of the classroom, and post Christian Slogans and propaganda if the Administration and the majority of parents didn’t agree with him. Buell is a symptom of MUCH larger problems in that community. Grin, bear it, and get out as fast as you can. Nothing you can do from the inside will change anything. You need the ACLU and the Feds on this district. Once they’ve been sued and sued as only the Feds can will they change their policies if not their beliefs.

  2. Joceline August 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    this whole story makes me feel very sad. Perhaps all the kids at the school should refuse to be in this man’s class. sigh.

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  1. SIGN THE PETITION! Show Students of Bigoted Teacher that ‘It Gets Better’ « Talk About Equality - September 1, 2011

    [...] of you have heard by know about Jerry Buell. Jerry is the teacher in Florida who took to his facebook and stated that he “almost threw [...]

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