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Missouri Family E-News

August 30, 2011

Christian Teacher in Florida Reinstated



A Florida teacher who was suspended for his support of traditional marriage has been reinstated to his teaching duties.  Jerry Buell has returned to his social studies classroom at Mount Dora High School following an investigation by school district officials.


Buell had been removed from his teaching responsibities after he posted comments on his Facebook page opposing action by the state of New York legalizing so-called homosexual "marriage."  School district spokesmen had stated that homosexual students might be "uncomfortable" in his classroom, and reassigned him to administrative duties.   


As a a result of their investigation, Lake County school district officials concluded that Buell's personal private commentary on the subject of homosexual "marriage" did not violate the school district's ethics policy.  Buell is chair of the school's social studies department, and had been named Teacher of the Year in 2010.


"The school board has affirmed that the Constitution protects the rights of public servants to express their opinions when they do so on their own time and in their private, personal capacities," says Buell's attorney, Harry Mihet, a lawyer for Liberty Counsel.  "It is a shame that Mr. Buell had to miss three days of teaching for his employer to learn this lesson."


"The government may tell Jerry what he can say or do while he is a teacher acting on behalf of the government," Mihel adds.  "But when Jerry clocks out at 3:00 in the afternoon, the government cannot tell him what he can think or what he can say.  The First Amendment is meaningless if it only protects speech that is warm and fuzzy."


Buell disputes the charge that his classroom is unwelcoming.  "I view every one of my students as a child of God and the creations of God that they are.  I explain to my students that they won't feel safer and they won't find a place they will be more respected than in my classroom.  I challenge anybody to ask any one of my thousands of students if that has not proven to be true."


The original complaint had been filed by a former graduate of Mount Dora High School who had never set foot in Buell's classroom. 



Missouri AG Endorses Ruling Nixing Insurance Mandate



Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says he supports a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the key provision of President Obama's pro-abortion federal health care legislation.


The 11th Circuit ruled that the requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that every American must purchase health insurance exceeds federal constitutional authority.


"The individual mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority:  the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives, " the justices wrote.


Attorney General Koster had filed a brief with the 11th Circuit arguing that the individual mandate had no constitutional basis.  The Attorney General submitted his brief on the heels of two events:  1) The passage by Missourians of Proposition C declaring that no person could be compelled to purchase health insurance coverage; and 2) the passage by the Missouri Legislature of resolutions calling on Koster's office to challenge the federal law's constitutionality.


Koster's brief argued that the individual mandate requirement was not a "legitimate exercise of congressional power under the Commerce Clause," and "would imbue Congress with police powers rejected by the Founding Fathers and never before permitted by the Supreme Court."


The 11th Circuit upheld the other provisions of President Obama's health care law aside from the individual mandate.  The lower federal court had invalidated the entire law, saying that its provisions were inextricably entwined.


Koster points out that his brief was the only one out of those filed by 37 different attorneys general which took the position adopted by the 11th Circuit.


"I agree with the 11th Circuit that the majority of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are severable from the problematic issues raised by the individual mandate."  


The 11th Circuit decision stands in contrast to another federal appeals court decision, which upheld the provisions of the federal health care bill.   


"This all but guarantees that the Supreme Court is going to hear this case," says Robert Alt, deputy director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Heritage Foundation.  "I'm not aware of any time in our nation's history when more than half of the states have actively sued the United States over a law.  I think the Supreme Court is going to take this case very seriously." 



Missouri State Senator Defends New Student Protection Bill

The State Senate sponsor of new student protection legislation is defending the bill against criticism from members of the Missouri educational community.  Senator Jane Cunningham says that attacks on the new statute, which regulates online student-teacher communication, are the result of misinformation and misinterpretation.  The section in controversy is one paragraph in a 35-page bill designed to combat sexual misconduct between school district employees and students.

Teachers representatives have falsely claimed and much of the mainstream media has falsely reported that the new law will prohibit teachers from communicating with their students through Facebook and other social media platforms.  Some have even made the wild allegation that the new law will ban any electronic communication between teachers and students.

What the law actually says is that "no teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student. "  "Exclusive access" means that the information on the website is available only to the teacher and the student, and where third parties (such as parents and administrators) have no access to the content.

The purpose of the provision was to discourage inappropriate relationships between educators and students by forbidding private conversations which could be hidden from parents and school district authorities.  Cunningham contends that the new restriction regulating online teacher-student interaction is a "common-sense, family-friendly law."

Over the summer months, teachers unions have raised concerns about the so-called "Facebook" provision, fanned by freedom of speech cries from the American Civil Liberties Union and distorted press accounts.  Despite the fact that the bill was passed unanimously by both Houses of the General Assembly with the full knowledge and support of the teachers unions, spokesmen for the teachers unions rushed to the head of the parade to call for reversal of the law.

While the Missouri National Education Association entered into constructive conversations with Senator Cunningham to seek clarifications in the law, the Missouri State Teachers Association went to court to invalidate the law on free speech grounds.  The MSTA made the unsupported allegation that the new law would prohibit necessary and routine communication among students, teachers, and parents.  The fact is the law expressly permits such communication on work-related websites.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem has now issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law.  Beetem concluded that the law "would have a chilling effect on speech," and thus violates free expression guarantees of the First Amendment.  Governor Nixon has called for the repeal of the new law, and has included the subject in a call for a special session of the Legislature which will convene the day after Labor Day.   Senator Cunningham disagrees with repeal, and so do we.

"Repeal would allow any public school employee to privately communicate with children without parental permission or oversight, " Cunningham says.  "How would parents feel about an absolute right for an adult to hide messages to your minor son or daughter and you have no means to stop it?"

Senator Cunningham points to the statistics that document the pervasive problem of teachers and coaches taking sexual advantage of their students.  An Associated Press study found that Missouri was the 11th worst state in the nation for teachers losing their licenses for engaging in sexual misconduct.  That study found a total of 2500 teachers had their licenses revoked nationwide over a five year period.

Just this month, a social studies teacher at Troy Buchanan High  School in Lincoln County was charged with sexual molestation and sexual misconduct involving two female teenage students.  The incidents occurred at his home in St. Louis County.

Senator Cunningham disputes the claim  that the new law is overkill.  "They say I'm trying to kill a gnat with a bazooka.  This is no gnat.  It's a monster, and it's growing.  When you realize that only one-tenth of these incidents are even reported, it's clear we have a major problem."

The teacher-student communication language was a small part of a much larger bill known as the Amy Hester Student Protection Act.  It primarily addressed a need for more communication between school districts regarding teachers who prey on vulnerable students.  In a practice known as "passing the trash," problem teachers who are dismissed from one school district move on to another district who have no knowledge of their previous sexual misconduct.  The new law frees school districts from liability for sharing employment information.

The bill was named after Amy Hester Surdin, a Missouri woman who was sexually abused by her teacher and coach in junior high school.  Surdin says that the issue isn't just about teachers "sexualizing" relationships with students.

"When teachers want, or try to be a student's substitute parent, they seek to assume influence over the moral and social mores that are the province of the family.  Standing up for parents to be privy to any exclusive communication between parents and students puts appropriate boundaries on the relationship.  As a parent, I am the first line in my child's life education, not his last."

Senator Cunningham is working with education groups on legislation for the special session which would clarify the new law, yet continue to discourage inappropriate and secretive communications between teachers and students.  We encourage you to contact Senator Cunningham and express support for her efforts to protect our children from sexual predators in the classroom and the locker room.  Her office phone number is (573) 751-1186.  Her office e-mail address is

You can let your own state senator what you think about this issue by using this link:
Missouri Senate

You can let your state representative know your views about this subject by using this link:
Missouri House

Missouri's classrooms are filled with many very dedicated teachers who care about their students and contribute greatly to their future success.  But every effort must be made to weed out the bad apples.  The entirety of the new law sponsored by Senator Cunningham does just that.

Joe's Signature