Fired over transgender pronoun mandate, Virginia teacher appeals to state supreme court
Peter Vlaming / Alliance Defending Freedom
Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).
A Virginia teacher fired for not using the “preferred pronoun” of a self-identified transgender student has appealed his case to the state supreme court.
Peter Vlaming, who taught French in Virginia’s West Point school district for seven years, was suspended and subsequently fired in 2018 for not using a male pronoun to refer to a female student who identified as a transgender male. Vlaming claimed he could not do for religious reasons.
He sued the district in September 2019, but the Circuit Court for the County of King William court dismissed his case. Vlaming on Friday appealed to the state supreme court, which had recently ruled in favor of another teacher outspoken against a local transgender policy.
“Peter has every right to fight this unlawful decision by the school board, and we will be defending him every step of the way,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – which represents Vlaming. Langhofer also directs ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom.
After one of Vlaming’s female students began to identify as a male at the end of the 2017-18 school year, the student’s parent requested that Vlaming use the student’s preferred name and pronoun in the fall 2018 semester.
He used the student’s preferred name, but declined to use the student’s preferred pronoun out of conscience, ADF said. The superintendent ordered him to use the student’s preferred male pronoun anyway, and Vlaming in 2018 was fired for refusing to comply.
“Peter went above and beyond to treat this student with respect, including using the student’s preferred masculine name and avoiding pronoun usage in the student’s presence,” Langhofer said. “This was never about anything Peter said—or didn’t say—it is about a school demanding total conformity in utter disregard of Peter’s efforts and his freedoms under Virginia law.”
Vlaming sued the school board in 2019 for allegedly violating his rights under state law.
If forced to comply with the school board’s policy, Vlaming would have to “communicate that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man,” his complaint states.
According to the defendants – the school board, superintendent, and school principal –Vlaming defied “repeated requests from the student and his parent and repeated directives, verbal and written, by his superiors” to refer to the student with male pronouns.
“Additionally, the Plaintiff continued to use female pronouns to refer to the student – both in the student’s presence and in the presence of other students who reported the behavior to the student,” according to a 2019 court document filed by the defendants in federal court.
In a meeting with the student, Vlaming allegedly said he was “mourning the girl” the student “used to be.”
In another case, Virginia’s Supreme Court on Aug. 30 ruled in favor of Byron “Tanner” Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School in the Loudoun County Public School District.
Cross had been suspended in May, after he spoke out against the district’s proposed “preferred pronoun” policy. The court on Monday ruled that he should be reinstated to his position.