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Teacher’s Anti-Gay Facebook Comments Result In Suspension

Do people have the right to post what they want on their own time?

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Teacher’s Anti-Gay Facebook Comments Result In Suspension
[ Social Media]

Social media is a minefield when it comes to employers and employees. One must navigate carefully, as it is quite easy to get into major trouble – even on the basis of just a few Facebook comments.

Florida teacher Jerry Buell stepped on a mine last month when he made some anti-gay comments on his Facebook page. He has been suspended from the classroom and reassigned pending investigation by the school board, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

He was once voted “Teacher of the Year.”

In a post on July 25th about the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, Buell said that he “almost threw up” when he heard the news.

In that same post, he elaborated on his feelings about same-sex marriage, calling them “a sin” and making reference the the practice as a “cesspool.” I can’t imagine what he would have had to say about the possible Bert & Ernie marriage on Sesame Street.

Buell contended that he was within his rights to say what he wanted to say on his own time, from his own personal computer. “It wasn’t out of hatred,” he said. “It was about the way I interpret things.”

Here’s that problem with Buell’s defense: it doesn’t fly in many states, especially Florida. The Lake County School District has already come up with social media guidelines that discuss what teachers can and cannot post on their private Facebook pages.

The guidelines, among other things, warn teachers that they should “delay posting until you are calm and clearheaded. If you feel angry of passionate about the subject, it may not be the time to share your thoughts in a post.”

A Facebook page has already been created in support of Buell, entitled “Support Jerry Buell; Mount Dora High School Teacher of the Year Suspended.” Although the page only has a handful of likes, there is plenty of chatter on its wall about the situation.

Should employers have the right to fire employees based solely on comments posted to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? Of course, it’s probably not a great idea to call your boss a dick on Facebook (especially if you’re friends with them), but if he fires you for it, do you have a complaint?

The National Labor Relations Board has taken up numerous cases of wrongful termination based on Facebook posts. One recent example involved a woman fired from an ambulance company for called her boss a scumbag on Facebook. She won a settlement before it could go to trial.

Or course, teachers are held to a higher standard by most – since they work with children. And with many school boards adopting social media policies, teachers might have to learn to keep their mouths shut.

Imagine the type of impact comments like this would have on the classroom environment if students were to catch wind of them. Sure, some Buell supporters would claim that he has a free speech right to express his opinions via social media – but since those comments could affect his ability to properly execute his job, should he be allowed to make them?

That question is most likely one of the reasons a new Missouri law is trying to ban teachers and students from being friends on Facebook.

The topic of free speech on social media sites was tested the other way recently when a judge ruled that a school had violated two teenage girls’ rights by punishing them for racy pics posted on Myspace.

Should teachers be allowed to voice their opinions, however controversial, on social media sites? Or should their speech be limited due to the nature of their job? Let us know what you think.

Teacher’s Anti-Gay Facebook Comments Result In Suspension
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  • http://www.benewords.com Carol Frome

    Should a teacher be allowed to make racist comments in a public forum? It’s the same thing. He can make the comments if he wants to, but I don’t think it’s very smart. If nothing else, it’s massively insensitive, it’s unprofessional, and it must hurt his gay students and those students who have gay loved ones. If we wouldn’t allow a bully on the playground to do it, why allow a teacher to do it?

  • http://www.randypenn.com Randy Penn

    Facebook just put 2 men in the UK behind bars for their posts. They will each spend 4 years behind bars for trying, not suceeding, in getting people to a protest in the recent peoples uprising in the U.K. Even though their calls to come to a special point to take part in the event resulted in nothing, nobody came, nothing happened, their mere intention to cause distrubance of the peace was enough. Facebook turned over the IPs and names of the people instantly to the rulers and they did their worst. Anyone who thinks their posts are part of freedom of speech needs a long lesson in government. Here in the USA our governments have cut off mobil services whenever protests start – that is not freedom. Our government will not be happy until everyone thinks and acts the way they want, one big homogenous meat factory earning a cup of rice a day to produce debt to keep bankers and their government in power. Big brother is facebook/google

  • http://webpronews. Craig Apelbaum

    Jerry Buell made these comments on his own time, on his own computer, in his own home. He is entitled to his freedom of speech. He has every right to express his own opinions and views, regardless of what anyone thinks or says.
    What ever happened to freedom of speech in this country. I thought this was America. Or maybe it’s not.
    Signed,
    Craig Apelbaum.