A Virginia high school teacher was fired on Thursday after he refused to use the proper pronouns for a transgender student. The West Point School Board voted unanimously to terminate Peter Vlaming for insubordination for violating the school’s anti-discrimination policies.
“After thoughtful deliberation, the School Board voted to support the superintendent’s recommendation,” announced the board. “The School Board has adopted policies and tonight we upheld these policies.”
While there are no reports of Vlaming directly using the female pronouns in conversation with the student, he did refer to him as “her” when talking to others (like when the teen was about to run into a wall while using a virtual reality headset, Vlaming told students to stop “her”). The school’s principal, Jonathan Hochman, also claims that Vlaming told him he missed “the female version of the student.”
The 47-year-old French teacher, who taught at West Point High School for the last seven years, cited his Christian faith as the reason he could not call the ninth-grade student by the preferred male pronouns. “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 explained.
However, the school wasn’t willing to compromise after the student in question said Vlaming’s refusal to use the proper pronouns made him feel alienated. The school system’s superintendent Laura Abel said, “That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that. They felt disrespected.”
Vlaming says he is now considering legal action for wrongful termination. “I am being punished for what I haven’t said,” he argues. “That’s not tolerance. That’s coercion… I do think it’s a serious question of First Amendment rights.”