Teacher Fired for Refusing to Address Student With Preferred Pronouns

October 3, 2019 Updated: October 3, 2019

A teacher in Virginia fired for refusing to use masculine pronouns for a female high school student said to identify as male is suing the local school board for wrongful dismissal.

The French teacher’s attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement that the superintendent of West Point Public Schools in West Point, Virginia, east of Richmond, ordered language educator Peter Vlaming to stop “avoiding the use of male pronouns” to refer to the female student, even when she wasn’t present.

The board terminated Vlaming’s employment for insubordination when he said he was unable in good conscience to comply.

“Mr. Vlaming’s conscience and religious practice prohibits him from intentionally lying, and he sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie,” the lawsuit filed in state court Sept. 30 states.

Vlaming had been willing to meet the transgender student partway, using the student’s preferred name instead of her given name. He attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns at all in reference to her in order to accommodate the student, according to ADF, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based Christian legal-interest organization.

“Peter went out of his way to accommodate this student as he does all his students; his school fired him because he wouldn’t contradict his core beliefs,” said ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton.

“The school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student. It was on a crusade to compel conformity. He works hard to make his students feel welcomed. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. He even used the student’s preferred masculine name and was willing to avoid using pronouns in the student’s presence. He just didn’t want to be forced to use a pronoun that offends his conscience. That’s entirely reasonable, and it’s his constitutionally protected right.

“Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street.”

Vlaming, who taught in the district for seven years, said he was disappointed with the way the school board conducted itself.

“I love French. It’s fascinating and beautiful,” Vlaming said in a statement. “I fell in love with it while in high school. After that and spending 11 years in France after college, I saw more than ever how learning a foreign language opens doors to whole new worlds for people. It’s a passion that I really enjoy sharing with my students. I’m saddened that West Point Public Schools wouldn’t work with me to reach a happy situation for everyone on this matter, so that we could all continue on with learning in mutual respect.”

The Epoch Times sought comment from West Point Public Schools, but no reply had been received as of press time.

Superintendent Laura Abel spoke to The Richmond Times-Dispatch late last year and claimed that Vlaming’s behavior constituted “discrimination [that] leads to creating a hostile learning environment,” according to CNN.

A spokeswoman for the school board separately told CNN after the lawsuit was filed that the board denies any wrongdoing.

The school system’s “primary focus is on students, staff, and instruction,” the statement said. “We will continue to direct our energy toward maintaining a high-quality learning environment in our schools.”

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