A high school French teacher was fired Thursday after he repeatedly refused to use a transgender boy’s male pronoun.
The West Point Public Schools board, in West Point, Virginia, voted unanimously to terminate Peter Vlaming following complaints from a ninth-grade student and his parents that the teacher, citing his religious beliefs, refused to use male pronouns.
“Mr. Vlaming repeatedly refused to comply with nondiscrimination, nonharassing policies adopted by this board,” the West Point superintendent’s attorney said at Thursday’s hearing.
Several school administrators, including the principal and assistant principal of West Point High School, as well as students, testified in a public setting Thursday for both sides before the board made its decision behind closed doors.
“Tolerance is a two-way street, but tolerance on the part of the school district has been noticeably absent,” Vlaming’s lawyer said in a statement Friday.
Vlaming, who has taught at West Point High School for seven years, read a prepared statement during Thursday’s hearing, saying he loved and respected all of his students and their rights, including the student in question.
“We are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed on me,” Vlaming said. “Even higher than my family ranks my faith.”
Assistant Principal Suzanne Aunspach told the board that during an August meeting with the student’s parents, they informed her their child is transitioning and had changed his name, wanting to be addressed with male pronouns.
Aunspach said she then met with teachers individually to relay the change.
West Point High School Principal Jonathan Hochman told the board that Vlaming told him he would not use male pronouns to address the student, at one point telling him, “I like the student and miss the female version of the student.”
Hochman said he directed Vlaming to use the male pronouns, telling him he was in violation of school policy.
Vlaming, reading from a prepared statement Thursday, said he agreed to use the student’s new name and tried to avoid pronouns, adding, “I could not in good conscience go as far as using male pronouns.”
In an incident on Oct. 31 in which the student almost ran into a wall during a school activity, Vlaming said he instinctively shouted to the other students, “don’t let her run into the wall.” Vlaming called the incident a “slip-up” that he immediately reported to the principal.
He was placed on administrative leave later that day. Following his official termination Thursday, Vlaming is exploring his legal options, his lawyer said in a statement.
During the hearing Thursday, Vlaming said he was being punished for something he did not say, calling his suspension “absurd,” and adding that he would like to continue teaching at West Point High School.
Following his statement, which was met with a round of applause by people in the audience, a board member asked Vlaming if he will continue to not use male pronouns when referring to the student if he were to be permitted back to the school.
“I’m happy to use the new name, I’m happy to avoid the pronouns that offend. I am not happy to use male pronouns for a female,” Vlaming said.
“And so you will refuse to use male pronouns to refer to the student in question, is that correct?” the board member asked.