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Florida teacher reassigned for Facebook comments on gay marriage

From Melanie Whitley, CNN
  • Buell told a Florida newspaper his comments were not made out of hatred
  • He's been a teacher for more than 26 years
  • A Facebook page has been launched to support Buell

(CNN) -- A former "teacher of the year" in Lake County, Florida, has been reassigned while school administrators investigate comments posted on his Facebook page about same-sex marriage.

Lake County Schools Communications Officer Chris Patton said school officials received a complaint Tuesday about the content on Mount Dora High School teacher Jerry Buell's personal Facebook page, as well as copies of the posts.

Buell's page has since been taken down, but CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13 reported that a status post on it said, "I'm watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about the New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up."

Patton would not confirm the content of the post, but he said Lake County officials are taking the matter very seriously.

"We began to review the code of ethics violations immediately and yesterday afternoon temporarily reassigned the teacher pending the outcome of the investigation," Patton told CNN Thursday.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Buell said the comment was not made "out of hatred."

"It was about the way I interpret things," the Sentinel quoted him as saying.

The newspaper said that in the same July 25 post, Buell said same-sex marriages were part of a "cesspool" and were a "sin."

Buell did not immediately return repeated CNN calls for comment.

Classes begin in Lake County Monday, but teachers are already back at school for pre-planning.

Buell, a teacher for more than 26 years, served as the Social Studies Department chair at Mount Dora and taught American history and government, according to the high school's website.

While his private Facebook page is no accessible, a support page has been launched for the educator.

"His personal faith and beliefs posted on his facebook should have no bearing on his job. I applaud him for his personal beliefs!!" said one post on the page.

"Are we in the USA no longer allowed freedom of speech, thought, and freedom of religion?" commented another supporter on the page.