MOUNT DORA, Fla. A former "Teacher of the Year" at Mount Dora High School has been suspended from the classroom for a comment he made on his Facebook page and is being investigated for a "code of ethics" violation.
On Facebook, Jerry Buell expressed his disapproval of legalized same-sex marriage in New York. His post was only open to his personal "friends" on the social network website.
School officials received a complaint about Buell's comment on Tuesday from a 2002 Mount Dora graduate, who was never even in the teacher's class. The Lake County School District responded by taking away his teaching privileges and reassigning him to administrative duties.
According to Fox news report, Buell said he was exercising what he believed as a social studies teacher to be his First Amendment rights.
Liberty Counsel is representing Buell and demanding that he be immediately reinstated with an apology for violating his First Amendment rights. Buell has been a teacher for more than 22 years, served as the Social Studies Department chair at Mount Dora High School and taught American history and government.
Liberty Counsel argues that the school district's response to Buell's comments is unconstitutional. Groups who are pushing "same-sex marriage" and "marriage equality" are claiming any speech that is contrary to their viewpoint is considered "hate speech" and should be censored, the group said.
"Public school teachers are not constitutional orphans. They, like all Americans, enjoy the freedom to engage in discourse about matters of public concern," says Harry Mihet, senior litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel.
"Mr. Buell is being investigated and punished for communicating his mainstream objection to homosexual marriage, an objection shared by a large majority of his fellow Floridians who have outlawed homosexual marriage through a constitutional amendment.
"If the First Amendment does not protect Mr. Buell's right to voice his personal opinion, on his personal time, from his personal computer, on his personal Facebook page, then the First Amendment means nothing.