Florida teacher and Christian bigot Jerry Buell is back in the classroom after a three-day suspension.
The school board decided Buell did not violate the district’s code of conduct when he allegedly posted a comment on his Facebook wall saying that gay marriages made him want to throw up. (LINK)
While the school board exonerated Mr. Buell of any wrongdoing, it also gave him a list of “ten directives” (Ten Commandments? Irony check?) that he must follow in order to stay out of trouble. The directives will not be made public until ten days after his re-instatement.
Many non-believers are looking skeptically at the decision — especially when his reinstatement seems to be contingent on some sort of list. It might feel as if the school board is painting a rosy picture and standing by their man publicly while slapping him on the wrist and telling him to keep his nose clean in private.
If that’s what’s happening, I submit that it’s OK. Forced apologies are tricky matters. No non-believers would have actually believed a public apology, and he and his fellow believers would have taken offense at his being coerced to say something he didn’t want to say. However, it is arguably a win for everybody in the long term. At the least, it’s a precedent for every non-believer in Florida. If a student were to ever complain about an atheist’s off-campus Facebook comments, it would be the height of hypocrisy to do anything other than exactly the same thing to him or her — full reinstatement and no apology.
It’s also noteworthy that this is likely to stop at the school board level. The teacher’s happy. The school board is happy. It doesn’t appear that this is a case likely to end in a court judgment. If anything, this might be a disappointment to non-believers. While the school board’s decision is binding, it is not the same as a legal precedent. Should the same thing happen to an atheist, and should the exact same school board rule differently for the atheist, it would still have to go to court.
When I wrote about this story earlier this week, the majority of Facebook comments by atheists were in favor of reinstating the teacher and telling him not to “friend” students on his Facebook page. With any luck, that’s one of the ten commandments he’ll have to follow.
What do you think? If this is not precisely the outcome you’d have liked, do you think it’s better to err on the side of freedom of speech?