Do teachers in public-school systems have a “special ethics” code that prevents them from publicly speaking on policy issues? Lake County Schools in Florida suspended Jerry Buell, a high-school teacher with a reportedly impeccable record for 22 years, for posting his opposition to New York’s new gay-marriage law, and will start termination proceedings against him. The case will test First Amendment rights and encroaching political correctness . . . .
The school district suspended Buell, who had been the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2010-11, because they are concerned that gay students might be “frightened or intimidated” in his class. That’s a pretty thin rationale for punishing someone over what appears to be more or less mainstream opposition to the gay-marriage law. Even saying the above in a classroom would be a thin rationale for disciplinary action, unless school districts will be taking action against all teachers who talk politics in the classroom, and a Facebook posting is not a classroom speech.
If this were at a private school, then the school would entirely be within its rights to dismiss the man. But, a public school should only be able to dismiss him if it holds all its teachers to a similar standard, suspending them from publicly speaking out on political issues.
Could Christian students be intimidated if they heard a teacher speak out against the public expression of their faith?
Oh, and one more thing, my favorite political science professor is college was a Marxist who regularly denounced Ronald Reagan and his policies, yet I wasn’t frightened or intimidated in his class, despite my open support of the Gipper. That professor may have been wrong about politics (and economics), but he could still teach in an even-handed manner — and show respect for those with whom he disagreed.
Do hope the PC police in Lake County, Florida bear that mind as they weigh the case of Mr. Buell.