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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

How free is teachers' freedom of speech?



imgres.jpegJerry Buell, Mount Dora High School's teacher of the year, wrote on his personal Facebook page that he "almost threw up" after reading a story about a new New York law allowing same-sex marriages. He called same-sex marriage a "cesspool" and called such unions a sin.

Now he's fighting for his job.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Buell has been suspended from the classroom and reassigned pending further investigation into his Facebook comments, which were visible to friends in his network. 

"People think they're free to say what they want to, but in some aspects it can come back to haunt you," Lake district spokesman Chris Patton told the Sentinel. Lake recently adopted new social media guidelines for its employees.

Buell has defended his comments to the paper, saying they were made on his personal time and reflected the way he interprets things. He said he did not say anything out of hatred.

Teachers often get held to a higher standard than others in the community, mostly because they're charged with teaching our children and are expected to serve as role models in a way that people in most other professions are not. But should they be punished for stating their beliefs? 

Other districts have fought the battle over controlling their employees social media usage during private time, with varying degrees of success. Is this a fight worth having? And who's right?

[Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 6:39am]


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