The National Organization for Marriage today hailed the supposed “droves” of people who showed up to defend high school history teacher Jerry Buell’s “freedom of speech.” A past “Teacher of the Year,” Buell made national headlines this week after he was suspended for comments he posted on Facebook about how news of marriage equality in New York made him “almost throw up.” He also referred to same-sex marriage as a “cesspool.” Whether or not “droves” showed up is unclear in this completely unbalanced coverage from Fox 35 in Orlando, which only featured interviews with people defending Buell:
If Fox 35 had bothered to do an accurate report on the significance of Buell’s comments, they might have talked to someone from GLSEN, who would’ve pointed out the severe negative consequence of an anti-gay environment in schools. As of 2009, nearly two-thirds of students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation. In fact, at the time of the study, 30 percent of LGBT students had missed a day of school within the last month just because of safety concerns. Students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity had grade point averages half a grade lower and reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
NOM and Fox 35 and all the other anti-gay conservative groups out there are free to paint the now-reinstated Buell as a victim of a First Amendment violation, but the real story here is how toxic his class environment must be for those students who are already out as LGBT or are struggling to come out. It would be naive to assume that student success and safety are the primary concerns for these “family” groups.