Peter Vlaming claimed using male pronouns for his student, a trans boy, went against his religious beliefs.
A high school teacher in Virginia was let go for refusing to use male pronouns to refer to a transgender student.
Peter Vlaming, 47, taught French at West Point Public Schools for at least seven years before he was fired earlier this month, reports The Virginian-Pilot. The decision came to a vote by school board members after Vlaming objected to using male pronouns to refer to his student, a trans boy in the ninth grade, prompting the district to put Vlaming on administrative leave on October 31.
Parents of the student, who was unnamed, said they spoke to Vlaming repeatedly to ask him to accommodate their child’s needs in the classroom. He apparently said he respected the student and agreed to use his chosen name—only to use she/her pronouns to refer to him, causing the ninth grader’s parents to bring the issue to administrators.
A school board hearing regarding the incident was held on December 6 in public—and more than 100 people showed up, some of whom were in support of Vlaming, who claimed using male pronouns to refer to his pupil violated his religious beliefs. The hearing went on for five hours, and ultimately, the board voted unanimously to let Vlaming go, deciding that the teacher’s actions were discriminatory and insubordinate.
Forrest Rohde student leader talks next steps pic.twitter.com/sao9ciZQJ4
— Ashley Luck (@ashleyrluck) December 7, 2018
Some students walked out of their classes after Vlaming was officially fired, holding signs that said “Free Vlaming” and “Justice for Vlaming,” according to The Virginia Gazette.
“Everyone has rights, the student has rights, but so does Mr. Vlaming,” said Forrest Rohde, a high school junior who organized the walkout. “This is violating Mr. Vlaming’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion. He cares about his students and we care about him.”
Asked by the school division’s attorney if he’d be willing to change his ways if he were to return to teaching, Vlaming said he still wouldn’t use male pronouns to refer to the student. Looks like his students are bidding him an adieu, not au revoir.