Christian French teacher Peter Vlaming is suing the Virginia school district that fired him in December 2018 for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred masculine pronoun.
According to WTVR, the West Point school board unanimously decided to terminate Vlaming when a 9th-grade student transitioned to male and requested to be referred to as “he” or “him.” Vlaming refused to use the pronouns because he believed he would be lying, but he compromised initially and told the school that he would use the student’s full name instead of the pronouns.
However, later in the school year, all of Vlaming’s students were using virtual reality goggles and walking around the classroom, Faithwire reported. The transgender student was about to collide with the wall and Vlaming shouted, “Don’t let her hit the wall.”
The student withdrew from Vlaming’s class after the incident and school officials suspended Vlaming for insubordination, later firing him.
“By failing to follow the directive he was therefore discriminating and creating a hostile environment,” Superintendent Laura Abel said.
Vlaming has filed a lawsuit against the school district for violating his freedom of speech and religion. Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm, represents him.
“Vlaming’s conscience and religious practice prevent him from intentionally lying,” the lawsuit claims. “And he sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie.”
According to the teacher’s lawyer, Vlaming attempted to accommodate the transgender student, but “the school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student … [the board’s goal] was to compel conformity.”
The lawsuit also claims that a group of students walked out in protest over Vlaming’s firing. “… [H]e wasn’t fired for something he said. He was fired for what he didn’t say.”
“I’m totally happy to use the new name,” Vlaming said. “I’m happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend, because I’m not here to provoke. … But I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”
Photo courtesy: Cecilie Johnsen/Unsplash
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.