School Board exonerates teacher suspended for Facebook comments


MOUNT DORA, Fla. — A teacher suspended from the classroom for a comment he made on his personal Facebook page is being reinstated.

Jerry Buell has encountered nationwide scrutiny for his personal Facebook post in which the Mount Dora High School teacher said he "almost threw up" after hearing news of legalized gay marriage in New York. He compared the unions to a "cesspool" and said they were a "sin."

"This is a great day for the Constitution. The First Amendment protects the right of public servants to express their personal opinion without any fear or intimidation," said Harry Mihet, Senior counsel for Liberty Counsel. "It is a shame that Mr. Buell had to miss three days of teaching for his employer to learn this lesson."

He was suspended last week by the Board and had been reassigned to administrative duties pending its investigation on whether he violated an ethics policy calling for educators to value the "worth and dignity of every person."

A 2002 graduate of the same school who never had Buell as a teacher, complained to the Board about Buell's Facebook comments. That complaint ultimately led to the suspension.

"Public school teachers are not constitutional orphans. They, like all Americans, enjoy the freedom to engage in discourse about matters of public concern," said Harry Mihet, Senior counsel for Liberty Counsel.

"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."

Buell has been a teacher for more than 22 years and served as the Social Studies Department Chair at Mount Dora High School. He was "Teacher of the Year" in 2010 at the high school.

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