Homophobic Teacher Should Get His Job Back

classroomIf you asked me to come up with a list of the types of people I wouldn't want teaching my daughter's high school social studies class, a homophobe would be sitting right up there beside someone who is just in it for the paycheck. It's hard to raise an open-minded kid when they're faced with blatant disrespect for their fellow man every time they enter a classroom. But even I am feeling like the school that suspended a veteran teacher for bashing gays on Facebook has gone too far.

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Jerry Buell allegedly called gay marriage a "sin" on his personal Facebook page, and he referred to same sex unions as a "cesspool." His response to the glorious news that New York State has finally legalized marriages between gays and lesbians? He "almost threw up."

Sounds like a jerk who is still stuck in the stone age.

But thanks to some pretty darn good social studies teachers who guided me back in MY high school days, I know that opinions, however misguided they may be, are protected by the rights of free speech. Protected, at least, when a teacher is uttering them OUTSIDE of the classroom, far away from their students. That's how Buell is defending himself. He says he wrote the comments on his personal page on personal time.

The district claims they violate a new social media policy that indicates teachers must be careful what they say, even on personal Facebook pages. Drafted in January, the guidelines have yet to be handed out to teachers. That may be what gets Buell out of trouble, the fact that the guidelines weren't yet in place. But I can't help shaking my head at the attempt to police teachers' thoughts outside of the classroom. Period.

At the outset, it seems like it serves students. No one wants to hear that their teacher hates them. But if we police Facebook, what's next? Telling teachers they can't drink at local taverns because their students might see them and get hooked on the hooch? Refusing to let teachers lay out in the sun because it's a bad example for teens who want to think tanning is safe?

It's a teacher's job to teach my child appropriate topics inside the classroom, but when the bell rings, their job ends. That's where I -- we -- pick up the baton and run with it. We're tasked with teaching our kids that their educators are imperfect human beings, that they have lives outside of the classroom, values we don't always agree with.

I'd LIKE to see teachers use some common sense on their Facebook pages (I'm looking at you Mr. Substitute Teacher with a public profile pic loaded with beer cans), but what really matters to me is how a teacher acts inside my kid's classroom ... not on Facebook. How about you?

 

Image via Liz (perspicacious.org)/Flickr

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