Interesting Case of a Florida Teacher

You may have heard by now about the teacher in Florida who was briefly suspended after posting some relatively obnoxious statements on his Facebook page about same-sex marriage. Here’s what he wrote on Facebook:

On July 25, Buell posted on his Facebook page, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”

“If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool as same-sex whatever! God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable???,” Buell added.

The school took him out of the classroom and put him in an administrative position for three days while they investigated, but ultimately decided that he had not violated the school’s code of ethics and reinstated him to teaching. And I think that’s the right result for that particular action. His Facebook page is personal, not official, and that expression is clearly protected by the First Amendment.

But here’s the more interesting development. Some of the statements on his official school webpage are clearly a problem.

On his school webpage, Buell wrote that he tries to “teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.”

His syllabus also offered this warning to students: “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!” On a separate document, he also said the classroom was his “mission field.”

Mihet said the webpage was since removed and Buell has been instructed to remove some parts of his syllabus.

At a rally staged by the Liberty Counsel Thursday evening, Buell was anything but contrite.

Fighting back tears, he said: “I’m a social studies teacher, and I knew I what the heck I was doing.

“There’s a thing in this country called the First Amendment,” he told the crowd of a few hundred. “I firmly believe in the right to express my opinions passionately.”

But the statements on his official website may well not be constitutionally protected, nor should they be. Your job is not to teach “God’s truth” it is to teach the curriculum, which is entirely secular and not religious. Given those statements, I’d say there’s a darn good chance that Buell has been teaching things that would clearly be out of bounds and I hope the school does a real investigation of that. What supplemental handouts has he been using? What kinds of things has he been saying in class that are not in the curriculum?

Unlike the Facebook page, what you say on an official school website and in the classroom can be proscribed because in that setting you are not an individual citizen, you are a representative of the government. And he has pretty much declared publicly in that forum that he thinks his job is to proselytize.

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