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Students of Florida’s Barfing Teacher Come Forward

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2011

Equality Florida has published comments from students of Jerry Buell, a Lake County teacher and adviser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mount Dora High School, who was suspended two weeks ago over anti-gay remarks posted on his Facebook page. Buell returned to the classroom last week, but the controversy hasn’t died down.

A growing number of students have come forward to describe Mr. Buell’s homophobic behavior in the classroom. Brian Blaise, an honors student who graduated in 2003, described the day Mr. Buell offered his disturbing take on the issue of gays serving in the military:

“I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back,” Blaise said.

Another of his students recounted Mr. Buell invoking the quote “A pig in a tuxedo is still a pig” to declare his disdain for recognizing gay relationships.

Equality Florida is asking supporters to email the Lake County School Board to demand they expand the district’s anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two weeks ago, Buell was suspended for a week after reportedly posting on Facebook, “’I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.” Since then, it was revealed that on Buell’s web page hosted on the high school’s web site, he wrote, “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” And on his syllabus, he wrote:

I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!

Buell’s statement on his school-hosted web page was removed and he was ordered to remove the references comparing himself to Jesus from his syllabus.

Comments

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Scott Rose
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

The Fellowship of Christian Atheletes is extremely anti-gay. The member’s contract has the signer commit to abstaining to pre-marital sex, but in the same clause adds that they will abstain from “homosexuality,” to emphasize that gay students are not welcome, i.e. do not abstain from pre-marital sex, with plans to marry somebody of your same gender. The organization is known to promote “pray away the gay” torture of victims; the language of the contract makes plain it thinks in those ways. Where the Fellowship gains dominance in a public school’s athletics program, it is virtually impossible for any gay person even to try out for the sports teams – and, Christians who don’t agree with the anti-gay philosophy dare not speak their minds — and never mind students of religious minorities, Jews, Muslims et cetera. What’s worse is that in a place like Buell’s Lake County Schools district, the Florida Dept of Ed has no authority over extracurricular groups – it’s all up to the local school board. And the Lake County School Board has members who also are on Boards of Christian counseling type places. *After* those Board members issued the directives to Buell and he was reinstated in the classroom, Buell told the Orlando Sentinel that he is passionate in his faith and any student who doesn’t like that needs to change their schedule. Obviously, current students in that school district would be fearful of speaking up about their rights being violated, for fear of retaliation from administration, staff and the student body, which has come so virulently to the defense of Buell’s supposed “first amendment right” to gay bash students.

David in Houston
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

Oh yeah, that teacher isn’t homophobic at all. You’d be crazy not to let the 2nd coming of Jesus teach in a secular high school.

Earth to Lake County School Board! Do your damn job!

Priya Lynn
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

If he wants to teach as though the board had hired Jesus then he should have nothing to say about gays.

Ryan
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

I love that Perkins et al have hitched their wagons to this guy, falsely claiming that he’s been persecuted for merely being against gay marriage. As more info comes out, he’s becoming a PR nightmare.

TampaZeke
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

He has every right to advocate his religious beliefs to his students but NOT at a PUBLIC school. If he wants to evangelize to his students then he needs to leave the public school system and apply to teach at a private, Christian school. But no, that doesn’t fit into his Christianist martyr agenda.

Mykelb
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

Here is my letter to the school board and you can send your own at the Equality Florida website:

Mr. Buell’s apparent anti-gay bias raises serious concerns about his ability to treat all students with dignity and respect. His comments pose a serious threat to all students by fostering a classroom environment that encourages disrespect. He has created a hostile environment akin to sexual harassment of his students and this must be declared not only inappropriate but inexcusable. The school board must have a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY when it comes to religious fantacism in the classroom. If Mr. Buell and other teachers cannot comply with our Constitution and the separation of church and state, then legal action will be required to step in and rectify a situation with your board and the TAX PAID government employees of the school system. I again want to advise you and the teachers of Lake County that their federal funding is in jeopardy should this situation continue without change. The Secretary of Education sent out a letter some months ago advising schools that if they did not comply with Title IX, they can lose their federal funding. To note:

Title IX prohibits harassment of both male and female students regardless of the sex of the harasser—i.e., even if the harasser and target are members of the same sex. It also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Thus, it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Title IX also prohibits sexual harassment and gender-based harassment of all students, regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.

If your school system doesn’t stop Mr. Buell and those like him, you are likely to find yourselves without federal funding and facing court battles. Is he worth this?

Mary in Austin
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

It seems this teacher vents his hostilities a lot, especially on a group (GLBT people) whom he thinks cannot hit back. Isn’t that the definition of a bully? The other problem I have with his behavior is the fact that at least a few of his students are bound to be sexual minorities themselves, and they sure don’t need emotional abuse from an authority figure.

Kelly
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

I’m trying to understand why he got suspended for what he posted on Facebook when his classroom behavior was so atrocious. As a parent, I don’t care what personal views my kids’ teachers have in their lives outside of school, but I’d be pretty damned incensed if one of my kids’ teachers made a disparaging remark in the classroom.

Allen
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

Kelly, he had several students as “friends” on Facebook, so his comments were visible to them.

On the one hand I want to say that if his comments weren’t made in a place where students would read/hear them then he’s free to believe whatever he likes. Eddie Izzard has a joke about how he doesn’t care if people are prejudiced as long as they’re only prejudiced in private and don’t throw it up in anyone’s face.

On the other hand what I think Izzard was getting at was that you can’t separate such strong personal beliefs, no matter how privately held or expressed, from your public life. A person’s prejudices are going to influence their behavior.

Needless to say, though, I agree completely with you that the biggest concern is the remarks made in the classroom.

g_whiz
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

“I strive to be like Jesus everyday”…yeah, apparently Jesus is a massive jerk, or you’re missing the mark by a hair.

Eugene
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/26/teacher-compared-himself-to-jesus-before-anti-gay-rant/

BlackDog
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

You know I can remember a time when…southern or not…a teacher using the word “ain’t” alone would’ve been frowned upon. In elementary school (Christian schools in California and Michigan, for the record, and among the military dependant kids at my school I knew plenty of southerners. The guy my mom was married to at the time was a USMC Reservist so I knew some of these kids outside of school) STUDENTS, much less teachers were not allowed to speak or write improperly…unless for example reading aloud from a book where the author had written such.

For that matter, even in the Christian schools that I went to, I can not imagine that the rest of this guy’s behavior would’ve been tolerated either.

I don’t recall EVER hearing a single comment about gays whether positive or negative (among other things) in Christian schools and I did not set foot in a public school until 8th Grade.
The only place in any of those schools that I recall homosexuality (or much else about sex for that matter) being mentioned was in encyclopedias.

I thought schools were for education, not for people pushing their private morality on others.

Also, I think as a society we’re getting just a little too obsessed with sex, and I find it more than a little disturbing that Fundamentalist Christians are so obsessed with the sex lives of others.

There’s something just a little creepy about all that.

BlackDog
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

For that matter, at the Baptist school (In Michigan) especially, I think a teacher comparing himself to Jesus would of got them fired…on the spot.

At the Catholic school I attended in Cali especially, but also the Lutheran school…I think they would’ve simply been laughed at…by pretty much everybody.

Cynthia McCollum
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

This man still has his job? Can you spell BIGOT? Where are the civil rights attorneys on this issue? I remember the civil rights campaign on race and this is the exact same crowd, 2 generations down. How dare anyone deny a tax paying law abiding citizen equal rights under the law? What sort of idiots are taking over here and why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?!?!

Jerry
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

The last thing any student needs is a Jesus Freak standing at the front of the room.

If they can’t keep their fantasies in the closet, then they should be terminated.

TomTallis
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

The link to Equality Florida is no longer available. It looks like they’ve removed the article from their website. They still have a link to their post on their front page, but when you click it, you get a page not found message.

John E. Baker, III
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

It’s back up now.

F Young
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

According to Brian Blaise, a former student whose interview appears at the New Civil Rights Movement, speaking about Buell’s classroom in 2001-2002:

Among several things hung around the room, Bible verses were spread across the walls, accented by a picture of Jesus Christ above the clock. While there may have been some additional quotes from other scholars and philosophers, the signs were predominantly Christian.

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/student-of-anti-gay-florida-teacher-jerry-buell-speaks-out-exclusive/discrimination/2011/08/31/26139

How could the whole school and the principal not be aware of this? I thought the US Constitution required the separation of church and state. Why was the school board not sued?

JT
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

We are threatened all the time that if we do anything in public, or share it on social media, that is embarrassing to the school, we could lose our jobs. Apparently that’s only the case if one isn’t a right-wing religious egomaniac.

Hunter
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

It starts to look as thought Buell and the board have a serious Establishment Clause problem.

TomTallis
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

I have a friend who lives in that district. It’s so bad there that she yanked her kids out of the schools and homeschooled them

She says it’s not just the blatant Christian proselytizing, it’s that the quality of the education is completely sub-par.

Apparently the proselytizing in the classroom is actually routine there and if you don’t conform or keep silent you’re going to be severly bullied.

cd
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

and he was ordered to remove the references comparing himself to Jesus from his syllabus.

Sign #17,937 that you might not have hired the right person for the job.

cd
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

How could the whole school and the principal not be aware of this? I thought the US Constitution required the separation of church and state. Why was the school board not sued?

Ah, a common mistake. In many parts of Red States the constitution believed to be in force is the Confederate Constitution of 1861. Assertions to the contrary are locally not welcomed.

BlackDog
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

Ya know, my thought is maybe they should be focusing on EDUCATION instead of Proselytizing, you know, do their actual JOBS and then the schools wouldn’t SUCK???

It amazes me how in most things, movement-type Conservatives and Fundies fail to take their jobs seriously. It’s no wonder it’s completely different from how it was when I was a kid…the expectations keep going DOWN and the amount of preaching keeps going UP. Like I said, I went to Christian schools until the 8th Grade and I think I got preached at less then I would of in this district’s “Public” schools.

But I also got a better education, because teachers were teaching, not trying to be Preachers.

David Roberts
August 31st, 2011 | LINK

You have to understand the depth of fundamentalism in many parts of Florida. But even here, this guy seems extreme. I’m not sure why he is still teaching there, much less made teacher of the year.

I know I would have been very uncomfortable in his classroom and I went through school in the 70s. The syllabus statement makes it clear he is a bully.

My guess is that the school administration might like a good reason to get rid of him.

Donny D.
September 1st, 2011 | LINK

David Roberts wrote:

My guess is that the school administration might like a good reason to get rid of him.

I dunno about that. A lot of Florida is confrontively bigoted, especially as regards their fundamentalism. They have a need to be actively hostile to the Catholics and gay people, and Jews and other non-Christians, among them. My guess is that the school board is of the same mindset as Mr. Buell.

Christopher
September 1st, 2011 | LINK

Methinks the ladye doth protest too much…

Mark
September 1st, 2011 | LINK

The link to send letters to the Lake County School Board is working now.
https://secure3.convio.net/eqfl/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=163

Let’s flood this guy.

Mark
September 1st, 2011 | LINK

Also, why is the ACLU defending this guy but telling a fired gay teacher- tough luck.

“Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union turned down the appeal of former Florida substitute teacher Shawn Loftis, whose teaching certification was revoked in April after his gay porn past was revealed. Loftis, who performed under the stage name Collin O’Neal, believes that had he been a heterosexual porn actor, administrative efforts would have been different. Still, the ACLU denied Loftis’ claim, telling him that his case would have been stronger had his job not involved supervising children.”

http://sundial.csun.edu/2011/08/should-former-porn-stars-be-allowed-to-teach/

dave
September 1st, 2011 | LINK

This man’s god makes me throw up. If I could I’d put my lips to his and throw up right down his throat.

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