Blog Post

Teacher Fired For Refusing to Use Trans Pronouns Sues School

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The PC culture in America has claimed many victims, but a popular French teacher from a public high school in Williamsburg, Virginia, who was fired for refusing to use male pronouns for a female student, is determined not to be one of them and has filed suit against the school.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm dedicated to preserving religious freedom, is reporting on the story of Peter Vlaming who taught French at West Point High School. The superintendent of the school board ordered Vlaming to refer to a ninth grade female student who had transitioned to a male with male pronouns. Vlaming, a Christian, refused to do so, citing his beliefs, but did agree to refer to the student by her new male name.

This wasn’t good enough for the superintendent, Laura Abel, who told WTVR that his refusal to use the pronouns was akin to discrimination against the student. Abel recommended termination. “By failing to follow the directive he was therefore discriminating and creating a hostile environment,” she said.

Abel was apparently unable to see that by attempting to force Vlaming into defying his beliefs by using certain pronouns, she was doing to him precisely what Vlaming was accused of doing to the student – discriminating and creating a hostile environment. Not only is this response blatantly hypocritical, it also raises serious questions about the motives of educators who think firing Vlaming was an appropriate solution.

This is especially puzzling when one considers how popular Vlaming was. He had taught in the district for seven years and was well liked by students. In addition, Vlaming was willing to use—and consistently did use—the student’s preferred name instead of her given name, and attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns in order to accommodate the student. But the student’s parents and the school wanted more – they wanted her to be called a him – and this is where he drew the line.

On October 31, 2018, while the students were wearing virtual-reality goggles and walking around the classroom, the transgender student seemed about to crash into a wall and Vlaming shouted to another student, “Don’t let her hit the wall!” This was apparently the last straw for the student – and the school board - and led to the firing of this beloved teacher.

“Peter went out of his way to accommodate this student as he does all his students; his school fired him because he wouldn’t contradict his core beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “The school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student. It was on a crusade to compel conformity. He works hard to make his students feel welcomed. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. He even used the student’s preferred masculine name and was willing to avoid using pronouns in the student’s presence. 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. Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street.”

However, as we all know, the PC bullies are not exactly icons of tolerance. As Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom correctly summarized, “This isn’t just about a pronoun, it’s about what that pronoun means. This was never about anything Peter said or did; only about what the school was demanding he say. Nobody should be forced to contradict his core beliefs just to keep a job.”

Many of the students at the school were not happy to see Vlaming fired. At first, they organized a petition drive but school administrators confiscated it. According to Shawn Voyles, the local ADF attorney who is representing Vlaming, it took the threat of legal action to have the petition returned. A month later, the students organized a walk-out to protest his firing. Many of the students carried signs that read, “Men are men. Women are women” and “You can’t impose delusion on us.”

As for Vlaming, he wants justice and to get his job back.

“I love French. It’s fascinating and beautiful,” Vlaming said. “I fell in love with it while in high school. After that and spending 11 years in France after college, I saw more than ever how learning a foreign language opens doors to whole new worlds for people. It’s a passion that I really enjoy sharing with my students. I’m 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.”

Vlaming is suing the school for breach of contract and for violating his rights under the Virginia Constitution and commonwealth law. He is seeking $500,000 in lost wages and $500,000 for loss of reputation, pain, suffering and emotional distress. He is asking for his job back or another position at equal or higher pay.

Let us keep this courageous Christian - and his battle against the forces of intolerance in our world - in our prayers. It's people like Vlaming who send a vital message to the PC bullies in our culture - you will not attack us with impunity.


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