Peter Vlaming, who formerly taught French at West Point High School in Virginia, is now suing the school that fired him for creating a hostile classroom environment.
Vlaming repeatedly refused to use he/him pronouns for a trans boy in his class, causing the student so much distress that he chose to drop Vlaming's class.
Vlaming claimed that using the correct pronouns for the student would "violate his conscience" because doing so would be "lying."
His lawsuit asserts that:
"Vlaming's conscience and religious practice prevents 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."
Even Vlaming's lawsuit misgendered the boy, using she/her pronouns to refer to him throughout.
The lawsuit described Vlaming's meeting with the boy and his mother at the beginning of the school year, where he was told that the student was transitioning. He agreed to use the boy's chosen name, but downright refused to use he/him pronouns for him.
Instead, he opted to refrain from using pronouns to refer to the student at all.
This might have been an acceptable compromise, if Vlaming had been consistent in simply using the student's name instead of pronouns, but this wasn't the case. He reportedly still used she/her to refer to the student when he wasn't present, and at least once during a class with the boy.
This misgendering continued until the student eventually decided to drop Vlaming's class altogether, despite Principal Jonathan Hochman directing him to follow the school's nondiscrimination policies and use the correct pronouns.
After the school board investigated Vlaming's conduct, they voted unanimously to terminate his employment at West Point High School.
The school board's attorney stated when he was fired:
"Mr. Vlaming repeatedly refused to comply with nondiscrimination, nonharassing policies adopted by this board."
Vlaming's lawyer accused the school board of intolerance at the time.
"Tolerance is a two-way street, but tolerance on the part of the school district has been noticeably absent."
However, the council's decision came after a fairly resounding refusal from Vlaming to follow the district's nondiscrimination policies during the hearing.
"I'm happy to use the new name, I'm happy to avoid the pronouns that offend. I am not happy to use male pronouns for a female."
"And so you will refuse to use male pronouns to refer to the student in question, is that correct?"
Vlaming is asserting that the school district, superintendent, principal and assistant principal violated his first amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.
He is seeking $1 million in damages for this.
One of his lawyers, Caleb Dalton, claimed that Vlaming has a "constitutionally protected right" to misgender the student.
"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."
Virginia teacher fired for refusing to call transgender student male pronouns; youtu.be
Social media reactions were understandably mixed, as transphobia is still an unfortunate reality.
Many criticized Vlaming for his refusal to respect his student, however.
@washingtonpost People like that have NO business teaching. Ever.— Justin Carr (@Justin Carr)1569944091.0
@washingtonpost What does it matter to this teacher what his student wants to be called? I’m a teacher, and I will… https://t.co/khOXUhaSme— Michele Holbrook (@Michele Holbrook)1569946017.0
@washingtonpost He has apparently not taken diversity training or civility training. If someone wants to be referr… https://t.co/dtTE2Fgd3X— Browneyedgirl (@Browneyedgirl)1569970744.0
@washingtonpost lmao imagine suing because you're the one that was transphobic— 🍜💙 (@🍜💙)1569944498.0
@JimmysSidecar @JCarr110 @washingtonpost 1.) this isn’t an issue of biology; it’s an issue of not being an asshole… https://t.co/NEMj4wmhwa— Caden Holbrook (@Caden Holbrook)1569946167.0
Several people praised the school district's decision to protect the student.
@washingtonpost Free speach doesn't apply to schools. Teachers are not allowed to force their political opinions on… https://t.co/D7tBC2h11T— The Glass Fish (@The Glass Fish)1569945386.0
Some said that religious beliefs should have no bearing on secular administrative decisions in secular public schools.
@washingtonpost If he wants to interact with students based on what his religious beliefs dictate then he need to g… https://t.co/QVv7nA0oXd— Carri Sussman (@Carri Sussman)1569945369.0
@mscarrilv @washingtonpost To be frank, private schools shouldn’t allow this either. Kids have little to no say in… https://t.co/bQN1VjmDyM— Caden Holbrook (@Caden Holbrook)1569946305.0
@washingtonpost Common DECENCY TO ANOTHER PERSON, should Not have anything to do with their Religion especially as… https://t.co/fgoAXknft1— Christine Mann (@Christine Mann)1570042008.0
Vlaming said that he had hoped to come to a compromise with the school board and that he was:
"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."
Mutual respect isn't possible unless both parties actually respect one other. One party downright refusing to gender the other correctly is not very respectful.
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