High School Teacher Fired for Refusing to Use Transgender Student’s Preferred Pronoun
On Thursday, a widely respected teacher in Virginia was released from his teaching position at West Point High School, leaving his family with no income after he committed the gravest of politically-incorrect sins: He used the word “she” to refer to a girl.
Peter Vlaming, who taught French at West Point High School for almost seven years, lost his job after all five board members voted that his objection to using male pronouns for a female student was a fireable offense.
Vlaming, 47, had taught a rising-9th-grade student in the 2017-18 school year, when the student still identified as female. Over the summer of 2018, the girl decided she was a boy. This school year, Vlaming had no problem with addressing the girl by the new name she had chosen, but would not use the girl’s preferred new pronoun because it conflicted with Vlaming’s Christian faith because the student is biologically female, Conservative Fighters reported.
Principal Jonathan Hochman told the School Board that Vlaming refused to use the male pronouns to refer to the student because he considered it a “lie.”
“[He told me] I’ve had a slip-up and he went on to describe what happened,” Hochman described. “He goes, ‘the student was participating in an activity, almost walked into a wall and yelled out stop her.’”
The student claimed she felt singled out. But the only reference to Vlaming actively calling the girl by the female pronoun rather than her name, according to witnesses, came on Halloween, when the student was using a virtual reality headset.
Superintendent Laura Abel told the School Board that administrators ordered Vlaming on numerous occasions to refer to the student by male pronouns. When the teacher refused, she recommended termination.
“By failing to follow the directive he was therefore discriminating and creating a hostile environment,” Abel stated.
The school district’s attorney, Stacy Haney, said Vlaming had made a “conscious decision by a teacher to treat a student who is transgender different than other students. That’s by definition discrimination.”
The School Board voted 5-0 to terminate the teacher after an hour-long closed session.
Superintendent Abel sent the following statement after the hearing:
The School Board has policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 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.
Given the potential for further litigation, we will limit any additional comments to what was presented at the hearing.
The school board later released the following statement:
Thursday night, the School Board made a difficult decision after thoughtful consideration. It is the Board’s responsibility to adopt and uphold policy, and we unanimously voted to affirm the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate Mr. Vlaming.
West Point Public Schools has the responsibility to ensure all students have a safe and supportive school environment where they can learn and thrive. We do not and cannot tolerate discrimination in any form, or actions that create a hostile environment for any member of our school family. Mr. Vlaming was asked repeatedly, over several weeks and by multiple administrators, to address a student by the pronouns with which this student identifies. The issue before us was not one mistaken slip of the tongue. Mr. Vlaming consistently refused to comply going forward -- including in a statement made at the hearing -- a willful violation of school board policy.
While we understand that some do not agree with our decision, we hope to have discussions that help West Point Public Schools move forward, maintain our focus on excellence and instruction, and make a positive impact on the lives of our community’s children.
-- The Town of West Point School Board
The teacher and students who know him explained that this wasn’t about purposely insulting the transgender person, but rather about being honest and true to his personal beliefs.
“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 in an opening statement at the board meeting which decided his fate.
“I am also aware of, and agree, with speech limits that are placed on public school teachers, concerning matters of religious faith,” the teacher continued. “However, we are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed upon me.”
By all accounts, the teacher tried to accommodate the trans student in many ways but does not believe his faith or personal code permits him to pretend that a girl is now a boy.
“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,” Vlaming said, according to an online petition that circulated to protect his job. Over 2,500 people sided with him.
“What could be worse for your family than being fired from your job for not lying and violating your conscience?” wondered Robert A. J. Gagnon, a Harvard-educated theology expert who is following the controversy.
Less than 24 hours after Vlaming was fired, some high school students held a “walkout” on Friday in support of the teacher.
“This is a new issue in this country,” Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles said. “These administrators had just two words, ‘gender identity’, that were added to their policies and they decided on their own what it means to discriminate against gender identity.” Voyles said he’s assessing his options on how to proceed including a possible appeal with the circuit court.
When CBS 6’s Brendan King asked Vlaming if his defiance of administrator’s orders was worth it, he replied: “There are some hills that are worth dying on.”