The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, which, while not representing Buell or supporting what he said, had published a statement in support of his right to say it. We asked the ACLU to help us understand why they took this position. Here's what they told us:
Given our belief that Mr. Buell’s off-campus Facebook post, though offensive, was protected by the First Amendment, we are satisfied to see that the school board has taken no further disciplinary action.
The ACLU believes that the response to offensive speech is not the restriction of speech, but more speech, which is why the ACLU has created programs like the “Don’t Filter Me” project to ensure that public schools aren’t illegally denying students access to positive, affirming information about LGBT issues.
Mr. Buell’s Facebook comments, though protected, highlight that work still needs to be done to help people understand why LGBT equality is so important. The ACLU will continue working hard to make sure public schools are safe for all students, including LGBT students, in Florida and in communities across the country.What do you think? Is this a freedom of speech issue, or should the rights, needs, and safety of LGBT students be placed ahead of the rights of their teachers? Is this an opportunity to further discussion, or do teachers, to paraphrase Tinker v. Des Moines, shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse employ? Does the advent of the Internet place an entire new lens on free speech and responsibility of those the state employs to teach, motivate, and protect our young?