MOUNT DORA, Fla. -- A Mount Dora High School teacher of the year was suspended from the classroom and reassigned pending an investigation by the Lake County School Board after controversial comments he made about same-sex unions on Facebook.
Jerry Buell, a longtime Lake County social studies teacher, said during a recent Facebook exchange that he "almost threw up" in response to a news story about legalized same-sex marriage in New York.
On the same July 25 Facebook post he identified the same-sex marriages to being part of a "cesspool." He went on to call the unions a sin.
The comments were made on Buell's personal Facebook page but were visible to friends in his network. Buell argued he made the post on his own time on his personal computer.
"It wasn't out of hatred," he said in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. "It was about the way I interpret things."
Area schools have recently adopted policies to nip such issues in the bud. In Orange County (Fla.) Schools, teachers are reminded their "private use of internet and social networking is not private" and employees should remain professional in using the communication at all times.
Lake County schools adopted similar guidelines for teachers, which will be distributed in the coming weeks.
"Social media is a minefield," said Chris Patton, communications officer for Lake County schools, who helped develop the guidelines. "People think they're free to say what they want to, but in some aspects it can come back to haunt you."
Bret Winters, a former Mount Dora High School student, said he was disappointed after learning about Buell's comments.
"This type of hateful language is dangerous not only to gay students, but also to anti-gay students," said Winters, 27.
The school district said Buell will be reassigned to an administrative position pending an investigation into whether he violated the district's code of conduct.
(c) 2011, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Visit the Sentinel, www.orlandosentinel.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.