A Virginia high-school teacher was fired on Thursday after refusing to address a transgender student by the student’s preferred pronoun.
The school board of the West Point Consolidated School District unanimously approved the district superintendent’s recommendation to let French teacher Peter Vlaming go from West Point High School. He had previously been suspended with pay since October 31.
“The School Board has policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” said Superintendent Laura Abel. “As detailed during the course of the public hearing, Mr. Vlaming was recommended for termination due to his insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators. As superintendent, it is my responsibility to enforce board policy, and due to Mr. Vlaming’s non-compliance I therefore recommended termination.”
“My religious faith dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not. Because we are all made in God’s image,” Vlaming said during Thursday’s public hearing. “I am also aware of, and agree with, speech limits that are placed on public-school teachers concerning matters of religious faith. I represent the state in my role as a public-school teacher and therefore speak with a certain authority. That authority is not to be used to promote any one specific worldview, and I don’t. However, we are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed upon me.”
Other students said the student in question was born female and now identifies as male.
“I won’t use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns,” an online petition supporting Vlaming quotes him as saying. “Administration is requiring that I use masculine pronouns in any and every context at school.”
Vlaming’s lawyer called the school’s requirement “unconstitutional compelled speech.”
“Public schools have no business compelling people to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold. This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about forcing someone to endorse an ideology under threat of losing his job,” said attorney Shawn A. Voyles. “My client has always respected this student’s rights and continues to do so; he simply asked that his rights be respected as well. Unfortunately, the school board refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved.”
Vlaming and his lawyer are evaluating his legal options, Voyles said.