Bully for You, Jerry Buell

2010-2011 Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell

As you may know, Jerry Buell has returned to work.

If you don’t know, Jerry Buell is the central Florida high school teacher who, on July 25th, got so outraged while watching a TV report about the legalization of gay marriage in New York that on his personal Facebook page he wrote, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”

Then he did another post, about how gay marriage is a “cesspool.” “God will not be mocked,” he wrote. “When did this sin become acceptable???”

When a number of his 700 Facebook friends reacted negatively to his comments, Buell posted, “If one doesn’t like the most recently posted opinion, based on Biblical principals and God’s law, then go ahead and un-friend me. I’ll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994.”

At Mt. Dora High School, where he teaches, Buell is (hold on, now) chair of the social studies department. He’s been teaching history at the school for nearly thirty years. So respected is he at the school that last year he was named Mt. Dora’s Teacher of the Year.

“I teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself,” is how Buell describes himself on his school’s webpage. On his class syllabi is his warning, “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 on a separate document, Buell wrote that he regards the classroom as a “mission field.”

A history teacher—a Teacher of the Year, no less—making sure everyone knows he won’t compromise in teaching “God’s truth.”

And people wonder why so many American students think europe is flavor of fruit roll-ups.

(For anyone reading this who doesn’t know me or my work, I, too, am a Christian. But to my mind Buell’s version of Christianity is what a paint-by-numbers painting is to a Rembrandt.)

After being reassigned to administrative duties for about a month, Buell is now back teaching in the classroom; he missed but the first three days of school. His defense was vigorously mounted by the Orlando-based, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel, who persuaded the Lake County School District that Buell’s postings on Facebook were protected by the First Amendment.

After the ruling in his favor, Buell told a local TV station that he had no plans to apologize for his remarks. “I’m exercising my rights, First Amendment rights, guaranteed in the Constitution, supported by the state of Florida … on Facebook,” he said. (At his wife’s urging, Buell has since deleted his Facebook page. Good call, wife.)

Besides what it indicates about America’s educational system, here’s my concern with this story: A man whom lots of kids see as an authority figure engages in public hate speech against gay and lesbian people. For doing that he gets in a little trouble—but the Big Word, the final call, is that it’s perfectly okay. What he did was fine. He got his job back. He won.

Buell’s story went large nationally. Thus did high school kids all across the country learn this week that it’s A-OK to pick on gay people.

It was at about this time last year that we start hearing of the first of what turned into a rash of gay youths committing suicide due to the incessant cruel bullying they’d suffered at the hands of their school mates. (Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds; thirty percent of all American teens who die by their own hand are LGBTQ.) It was these suicides that led me to interview Charles Robbins, then executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project. (You can read that very moving interview here. Please do.)

I’m harboring deep trepidation for the beginning of this new school year.

All those kids.

All those Jerry Buells, teaching them.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jeannie

    I am not sure.  When I was in school it was still fine for teachers to be mean to all kinds of kids – the poor, the disabled, etc.  Those who were already inclined to be mean didn’t need an example.  Those who were more open minded and open hearted continued to be so.  Oh, and as a matter of common sense I always took the advice of any teacher who suggested I change my schedule.  I bet this teacher’s reputation proceeds him and that lots of kids take him up on his suggestion.  He does sound like a real jerk.

  • Don Whitt

    This is a management problem. Buell’s perfectly free to be an insufferable anus, but he should be fired. Damn the legal costs. make a stand you cowards.

    It’s also a budget problem. Groups like the Liberty Council have more lawyer money than school districts do.

    It’s not about what’s right anymore – it’s about “the culture war” and succeeding at any cost. These reactionaries wouldn’t know a Phyrric victory from a snow cone, yet they’re bringing down society in the name of a white, conservative “Christian” society that only existed in small pockets of civilization and on TV. They don’t care who funds that unholy jihad or what those donors’ real agendas may be.

    Onward Christian Soldiers.

  • Dirk

    Well put!

  • Anonymous

    Wonderfully said, Don.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Don-Whitt/671548209 Don Whitt via Facebook

    Just posted. This is disgusting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pat-Carrithers/100001613021102 Pat Carrithers via Facebook

    Made me throw up in the back of my mouth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    this message brought to you courtesy of anita bryant…..and her ilk….. and I used to think she was right when I was a new believer and didn’t know better…..sadly the beat goes on…..

  • Alicia G.

    My biggest concern (and my concern for LGBTQ kids is a whopper) is that it sounds as though Mr. Buell is pulling his personal religion into the classroom. I work as a public librarian but I’m relatively sure that my colleagues and customers would have a very difficult time telling anyone exactly what my political and religious beliefs are because it is professional behavior to refrain from espousing those beliefs in such a way as to make others upset or uncomfortable. Mr. Buell (just like my own dear Mr. Strange–real name–when I was in high school many eons ago) should remember that if one wishes to be treated as a professional, one must behave as a professional. Espousing his beliefs to a captive audience is inexcusable. As for his postings on Facebook, he has every right to say whatever he wants there but bringing it into work? That’s wrong.

  • Shadsie

    I find it interesting that I work a lowly part-time job at a damn BARN where all the people know each other, treat each other as something of an extended family – very laid-back, as un-professional a work setting as you can get (jokes about the horse poo are common, as well as people randomly giving you food if they baked too many muffins or something)…

    And none of us are clear on each others’ religion.  I think I’ve off-hand mentioned “believing in stuff” to my boss when we were *discussing sci-fi literature,* one of the people who keeps horses there talked about going to a psychic and the person who got me the job has a vauge belief in “karma.”  Otherwise… it’s just weird, a non-professional workplace (where I work on Sundays) and no one discusses religion because  NO ONE CARES.  

    I like it that way, personally – and it’s a job where my primary duty is scooping fecal matter into wheelbarrows.  Certainly not important like teaching.

  • DR

    I could not agree more!

  • vj

    “it is professional behavior to refrain from espousing those beliefs in such a way as to make others upset or uncomfortable”

    Exactly! I would add, though, that is basic POLITE behaviour in all circumstances…

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    I would love to act in a rather un Christlike manner towards Mr. Buell.

  • Fred

    Just what the world needs – another “jerk for Jesus”! Seems like Mr. Cess-Buell is more interested in culture wars than seeking the Kingdom. But you’re right, John — the really sad and scary part is all the kids that are going to get the message that it’s OK to bully kids that may be LGBT or may just be questioning who they are. I saw a quote from Anne Lamott today that seems appropriate – “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/okflowerchild Linda Tenney Sexton via Facebook

    But please, don’t presume all, or even most, teachers would be cruel and bullying, no matter what their personal belief systems are.

  • Liz McCollum via Facebook

    I’m guessing there aren’t enough people in his district who are upset to protest and have him removed? Or was he reinstated so quietly that people didn’t really know?

  • Anonymous

    If this guy’s really as creepy, grouchy and obstinate as he comes across, I’m sure the kids can see through it. If anything, he’s probably a walking advertisement to NOT become a closed-minded, middle-aged cartoon character.  I had an algebra teacher who regularly spouted off against women.  “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em” is one phrase that sticks out in my mind.  I don’t think any of the kids in that class became women-haters.  In fact, no one really took the teacher seriously….he just became a joke we all giggle about at the class reunions.  Kids are smarter than people give them credit for.  Especially at the high school level, they start to figure out not every adult knows what they’re talking about and some are actually messed-up, sad, pathetic individuals like Mr. Buell.

  • Anonymous

    Erin: You’re right, of course, and I’m glad you said this. It’s a comfort. Much less comfortable, relative to the idea of what kids are and aren’t aware of with this guy, is that he won the accolade of Teacher of the Year.

  • DR

    What if you’re a gay kid in his class? I can’t even imagine. Not exactly a joke.

  • Erin D.

    Well, I was a woman in the woman-hating algebra teacher’s class and I was offended when he joked about shooting women. But when you don’t feel like you have any recourse, finding humor in the pathetic world view of others is a healthy way of coping. Looking back, we could and probably should have reported the things our teacher was saying, but we were freshmen. No freshman wants to rock the boat. As I have learned more, I see that this Buell guy’s hatred is much worse than the offhanded jokes my algebra teacher made. There’s no excuse for that, and he should be removed from teaching.

    My point is though, anyone that wacky and angry is not likely to be taken too seriously by a group of high school students. Heck, I grew up conservative Catholic, surrounded by priests and nuns, surrounded by conservative family members, brainwashed from day one, and I still emerged an enlightened, liberal Protestant. Kids are going to be who they are going to be, and I doubt the ranting of one offbeat, bigoted high school teacher (even if he was ‘teacher of the year’—hah!) can do much to change that. If a kid was predisposed to hate gay people, Buell probably amplified their hatred and that could be dangerous. But I doubt he turned many kids into gay-haters who otherwise would not have been. I hope and pray.

  • Matthew Eagleton

    The issue is not about whether kids will get over it!

    How do you know if they will get all over it? The issue here is that it should not have been said in the first place – it is inappropriate behaviour by a teacher!

    What about the girls in this class? What about the boys in the class that grow up to think women are second best!

    Some kids may see through things but that doesn’t mean that they are n ot affected.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/ShadewearOnline-Scott/100000385934136 ShadewearOnline Scott

    Why do all of these extreme right-wing Christians always come off as so angry and grumpy? Is that how Jesus was when he was walking around helping the poor and infirmed? It seems like these people just have a lot of deep-seeded personal issues involving hate and they use religion as a shield to protect them.

  • DR

    Because they believe that their Biblical education is all of the education they need. And their Biblical education tells them that any additional information outside of that or that contradicts what their Biblical education has told them is “evil” and “dangerous”. So they get hostile and defensive, as if they are on enemy lines.

  • BrianW

    Buell would hate California, since Gov. Brown signed a bill recently legislating adding to public school social study curriculum lessons about the positive contributions by gays, lesbians and transgenders in history. 

  • DR

    Good, that will hopefully provide another voice against the massive stream of messages that this man and millions of others like him – protected, promoted and supported by conservative christian groups like the Liberty Council – have been perpetuating about the “cesspool” of homosexuality for years. Maybe as a result, a gay kid in school will have a shot of hearing about a gay man or woman who’s respected politician or a decorated member of the Armed Forces instead of hearing that they are part of a “cesspool”. Then maybe that kid won’t kill himself because he can conceive of his future.

  • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

    DR: ‘Maybe as a result, a gay kid in school will have a shot of hearing about a gay man or woman who’s respected politician or a decorated member of the Armed Forces instead of hearing that they are part of a “cesspool”.’

    I think it also serves to educate us all, as does all such information be it women’s history, black history, native american history, latino history, Jewish history….. Ignorance is the petri dish where stereotypes grow and fester. In the bright light of truth, lies can live no more and truth wins out.

  • DR

    (Before you say it Brian, the Liberty Counsel is a Conservative Christian organization).


  • DR

    Hey, look at the kind of thing that this guys says to his students! In the public school classroom! Do you denounce this Brian?


    Bryan Blaise tells The New Civil Rights Movement blog that during 11th grade at Mount Dora High School, Buell was asked by a student what he thought about gays in the military.

    “I tensed, knowing full well the point of view to follow in Mr. Buell’s response,” Blaise said in the interview. “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.”

    Blaise said he never reported the incident and that he never complained about continued antigay bullying he experienced while in school, because attitudes there seemed clear and complaining “futile.”

    Blaise said his former social studies teacher’s beliefs are obvious even in the decor of his classroom, which included Bible verses and a picture of Jesus Christ above the clock.


    (source: http://www.advocate.com/printArticle.aspx?id=231013)

  • Don Whitt

    I always recommend to people like Buell, who proudly display paintings of Christ on their wall, that they should turn the painting around so that Jesus doesn’t have to watch.

  • Mindy

    Perfect, Don. Just perfect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210634743 Mindy Brown Carney

    OK, I totally understand that all the crap he spouted on his FB page may be protected by free speech.  Fine.  He outed himself as an idiot and a crack-pot – good for him. 

    What I don’t understand is this:  “I teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus
    Christ himself,” is how Buell describes himself on his school’s webpage.
    On his class syllabi is his warning, “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 on a separate
    document, Buell wrote that he regards the classroom as a “mission

    Because that is plain and simply and OBVIOUSLY crossing the line between church and state.  How is it any different from praying in the classroom?  And changing schedules to not have him is all fine and good, but probably not an option for every kid, as social studies is required and they may have other requirements for their academic track that preclude moving to a different hour. 

    This man is not only evil and hurting students who are LGBT, he is also hurting students who are any religion other than Christian, and now that I think about it, hurting Christian children who dare to believe their God is one of love.

    I know most teens may see through him – but they won’t all.  He needs to be GONE.

  • Don Whitt

    Seeing through people isn’t a full-blown defense from them. Those kids still have to sit through his act everyday. Sad. Can you imagine a physician who let gay people die because they were gay? I have no doubt that’s happened. What Buell is doing is just as bad. He’s just doing it more slowly.

  • Mindy

    You’re right, Don. I just want to know why he was allowed to say what he said on the school website. To me, that such a clear violation of the separation of church and state that I fail to see why a lawsuit was even necessary. He bragged that he would teach Christianity (even his twisted version of it) and that was OK?? I cannot wrap my tired ol’ brain around that one.

  • Don Whitt


    The concept of separation of church and state is thorny. Constitutionally, it applies to a state mandated religion or test of religiosity for public servants unconstitutional. It doesn’t mean you can’t discuss religion in school. You just can’t require religion in public schools. Buell’s probably protected by free speech with respect to his religious yammerings. If he stated, “only Christians get A’s in my class”, then he’d be crossing that line of separation, I think. The link between his religion, his homophobia and his hateful talk all need to be linked to his unfair treatment of students to qualify as a constitutional issue, IMHO.

  • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

    “But to my mind Buell’s version of Christianity is what a paint-by-numbers painting is to a Rembrandt.”

    That is the best description of the wack-job fundamentalist flavour of Christianity I have ever heard. Thank you. :o)

  • http://www.facebook.com/blessedandhighlyfavored1 Brian Wright via Facebook

    This makes my blood boil. We should bring back public stonings.

  • Mary @Barnmaven.com

    While I know that most kids don’t see their teachers as models of thought and behavior, there are still areas of influence and authority that a teacher has in the life of a student.  The simple act of returning this man to the front of a classroom sends the message to LGBT students that their rights as human beings not to be discriminated against don’t matter as much as this man’s “right” to malign them. 

    I would not allow my children to be in Buell’s classroom were I in his district. 

  • Anonymous

    Exactly, Mary. Perfectly said.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    neither would I Mary, and if he were the only teacher available in that school for a particular subject I would be at my school district’s office demanding an alternative.

    I expect a social studies teacher to teach social studies, a math teacher to teach math, an English teacher to teach English. Personal views on religion, politics etc. should be kept out of the curriculum as they are hardly relevant or beneficial to the subjects at hand

  • Dirk

    And that is just the point. To conservative Christians, we do not deserve human status.

    These vile, filthy hateful pieces of human excrement love nothing more than to drive young gays, lesbians and the transgender to kill themselves.

  • Jack

    \ Thus did high school kids all across the country learn this week that it’s A-OK to pick on gay people.\

    As a gay man married legally to his husband, I don’t feel picked on by this teacher.

    What he says OUTSIDE of school time that does not urge criminal behavior or is libelous is protected speech.

  • biologyguy

    gay-hating student in Mr Buells’ class: ” … so Mr Buell, did you see that article about gay rights the other day??”

    Mr. Buell: “I’m not supposed to talk about that in the classroom, Jonny (wink wink) but my webpage is mrbuellhates fags.com… go there for your homework assignment”

    or some variation thereof

    you know it happens

  • Matt A.

    This is NOT just outside the classroom.. did you even read the article? are you really even gay???

    “I teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself,” is how Buell describes himself on his school’s webpage. On his class syllabi is his warning, “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 on a separate document, Buell wrote that he regards the classroom as a “mission field.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.chaplinski Laura Green Chaplinski via Facebook

    Liz, this made CNN, I’m sure they knew. Those around him seem to accept it or sweep it under the rug. It also struck me that he teaches “Gods Truth”, is this a public school? I’m not a fanatic for no God in school, but this is a bit much for a school web page, he should focus on history.

  • Brook E Mantia via Facebook

    I think Mr. Buell has the Jesus of the Bible confused with a dude he met down in Tiajuana.

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com KenLeonard

    No, no, no … Everyone knows that all public school teachers are left-wing indoctrinaires who hate Christianity in any form and are brainwashing our kids to be gay atheist Muslim Commies.

    As a Christian, this guy disgusts me, too. There is no need for his kind of behavior. I can’t help but notice that Jesus never took time from His sermons to rant about homosexuals. I think He knew a thing or two about what Christianity should be about … you know, being Christ and all …

  • Silver Bear

    As trite & cliche as the stereotype is, methinks the Lady doth protest too much. In plain English, Buell is a viciously self-loathing closet case who takes his rage out on others. Pathetic! I mean really, we’ve seen it again & again with Republican legislators who are rabidly anti-gay, that sponsor heinous homophobic laws only to be caught pants down with a male prostitute in some sleazy dive.