Many years ago I had a teacher who assigned our class the task of answering the question: "How had slavery benefited black people by bringing them to the new world?"
He was a popular coach who was also known to use ugly racial slurs while chastising black athletes. If the school disciplined him, I never knew about it. I transferred out of his class as quickly as possible and felt ill every time I encountered him in the hallways.
That teacher came to mind as news broke last month of a Mount Dora High School teacher who took to Facebook to express his disgust that gay couples are now free to marry in New York. He called those marriages "a cesspool."
While some rushed to defend Jerry Buell's anti-gay posts as private, protected speech under the First Amendment, others argued that Facebook had become an extension of his classroom, since Buell actively made students his "friends" on the popular social network.
Would it be acceptable for a teacher to express disgust toward a particular race or religious background in a forum where his students were expressly invited? Buell cannot reasonably now assert that his hateful words have no impact in his classroom.
On the contrary, one Mount Dora student responded to Buell's Facebook posts saying, "This just made me more excited for your class next year. lol"
There is clear evidence that Buell violated the teachers' Code of Ethics and Principles of Professional Conduct. It is also clear that his classroom has long been a hostile environment for anyone who does not agree with his particular religious and political views.