The Florida teacher who posted anti-marriage messages to Facebook is taking his anti-gay rhetoric to the national stage. Jerry Buell, a currently employed public high school teacher at Mouth Dora High School, is known for taunting his students for their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Now he’s being featured in an anti-LGBT advertisement that undermines the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. The advertisement, which is littered with inaccuracies, paints the teacher of more than 25 years and his wife as victims of the media. Last August, Buell garnered national attention after he took to Facebook to express his homophobic sentiments regarding the historic passage of marriage equality in New York. Buell, who is friends with several students, tried to justify his actions as “free speech,” citing that the First Amendment protected him from any punishment. The media later uncovered that Buell had a history of making hurtful anti-LGBT comments to his gay and transgender students and had even preached many of his hurtful opinions during classroom lessons. Buell also suggests that the ACLU of Florida supports his right to spew these harmful messages in the classroom. According to the civil liberties group, which had previously sent a letter to the district urging the school to adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies, their call to Mr. Buell, which was unreturned, was only to discuss his First Amendment rights off-campus on Facebook, not in schools. Equality Florida has been leading the effort in Florida to elevate the stories of Buell’s former students, many of whom say they were victims of Buell’s anti-LGBT rhetoric. In late August, the group featured the stories of students who admitted to having experience Buell’s homophobia first hand. Brian Blaise, an honors student who graduated in 2003, described the day Mr. Buell offered his disturbing take on the issue of gay people 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 the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. A syllabus that Buell admits to have used for many years states his beliefs plainly, "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!" GLAAD urges the media to highlight the real dangers teachers such as Jerry Buell present when leading our classrooms and teaching our children. We encourage a discussion not centered around “rights” but around the concrete harms of homophobia in the classroom and the dangers it presents for gay and straight students alike. Every student deserves to learn and thrive in a healthy and welcoming environment.
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Out actress Ellen Page presented the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to advocate, actress, writer, and producer Laverne Cox.