The ongoing gay and religious human rights crisis in the Lake County, Florida public schools recently escalated as the maliciously anti-gay social studies teacher Jerry Buell told the Orlando Sentinel that he is passionate about his faith and that if students are uncomfortable with that, they need to get their schedules changed. It could not be plainer that, for example, a student member of Catholics for Equality would not be made to feel welcome in Buell’s classroom. Or, for that matter, a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist.
Buell became well-known across America last month for posting this comment on Facebook:
“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???”
In an attempt to defend himself after news broke of his offensive Facebook anti-gay rant, Buell, a teacher at Mount Dora high school, on his personal website last month wrote, “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” This after being criticized for writing on the school’s syllabus, “I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises.”
Buell’s open hostility towards religious minorities blatantly violates the Florida Department of Education’s Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession. Those Principles state, among other things, that the individual educator shall not harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of religion, and that violation of any of the principles “shall subject the individual to revocation or suspension of the individual educator’s certificate, or the other penalties as provided by law.”
In the pages of the Orlando Sentinel, Buell issued his open warning to students of religious minorities after the Lake County Schools Board issued “directives” to him in the wake of his anti-gay-rights hate speech on Facebook. As the Board’s directives to Buell will not be public until ten days after they were issued, it appears possible that the directives instructed him to warn religious and other minorities, in the pages of the Sentinel, that they must be prepared to suffer — in silence — his violations of the Florida Dept. of Education’s Principles, or not take his classes at all. Who knows what those directives say, if Buell is still threatening minority students in public, and the Lake County Board does nothing to punish him? The circumstances give an observer no faith that the Lake County Schools will uphold the Florida Department of Education’s Principles.
Furthermore, the Florida Department of Education itself is refusing to provide any oversight. Informed of Buell’s published threat against students from religious minorities, and his other apparent violations, the Department of Education told this reporter that it is a local school board matter. That makes an observer wonder what the point of the Principles might be in the first place. Are they optional? For its part, the Atlanta Division of the United States Department of Education, in a preliminary response to the Buell scandal, said “all students have a right to an education free from the threat of harassment.”
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