(Photo: Reuters / Thierry Roge)
A Florida high school has suspended its 2010 Teacher of the Year over Facebook comments he made against gay marriage.
Jerry Buell, who teaches social studies at Mount Dora High School, wrote on his personal Facebook page that same-sex unions is a sin, that he "almost threw up" over news about the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, and that gay marriages were part of a "cesspool," as reported by Orlando Sentinel.
The comments were brought to the attention of Lake County School District officials by a former student, according to WESH 2 News. The district has suspended Buell from the classroom and reassigned him to a clerical position at the district's administration building while an investigation is pending, the local news agency reported.
Buell told the Orlando Sentinel that "it wasn't out of hatred" that he made the posts. "It was about the way I interpret things."
Over the past year, district officials worked on putting together new guidelines on social networking. They were approved by Superintendent Susan Moxley earlier this year.
Part of the guidelines state, "If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it may not be the time to share your thoughts in a post – you should delay posting until you are calm and clearheaded. Always remember that no e-mail is ever fully deleted."
They also warn that use of social networking sites or blogs "creates the risk of affecting your professional career."
"It is vital that you conduct yourself in such a way that it does not adversely affect your employment and/or the District."
Former Mount Dora student Evan Holley told WESH 2 News that Buell would never try to offend anybody.
"I mean, he’s a really Christian guy and that’s his beliefs. I mean, it’s his personal Facebook," Holley stated.
A Facebook page called "Support Jerry Buell; Mount Dora High School Teacher of the Year suspended" was recently created, urging supporters to contact the school to help Buell get his job back.
One supporter, named Maile Burrows DeLand, posted on the page: "I have known Mr. Buell for a long time and I know the type of person he is. He is a great teacher and the school board would be losing one of their BEST teachers in the district if they lose him. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Not everyone will agree and that is when you make people mad. But who cares. What happened to freedom of speech? He wasn't threatening anyone or making hateful comments. He was speaking his beliefs. We love you Mr. Buell!"
District officials are determining whether Buell violated the code of conduct for employees.