Teacher Fired For Refusing To Use Correct Pronouns For Transgender Student

by Julie Scagell
Image via Facebook/ABC 8

The teacher cited religious beliefs as his reason

A high school teacher has been fired from his job this week after he repeatedly refused to use a transgender boy’s male pronoun.

Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia, was terminated for refusing to observe the school’s nondiscrimination policies. Vlaming repeatedly declined to refer to a ninth-grade student using correct pronouns because of his “religious beliefs.”

“Mr. Vlaming repeatedly refused to comply with nondiscrimination, nonharassing policies adopted by this board,” the West Point superintendent’s attorney said at his hearing. The principal, assistant principal, and multiple students testified for both sides before the school board made its unanimous decision to terminate Vlaming.

West Point High School Principal Jonathan Hochman told the board during the hearing that Vlaming told him he refused to use male pronouns to address the student, saying, “I like the student and miss the female version of the student.” Vlaming was told to do whatever “the parents required.”

No. Just, no.

Picking and choosing the parts of religion that best suit you is inexcusable, especially for a teacher. Here’s the thing — it’s not about you. It’s about making your students feel comfortable and safe. You don’t need to agree with their beliefs but you should respect every student’s right to be who they are. They’re going through enough without having someone in a position of power and trust marginalizing them further.

“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. “We are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed on me. Even higher than my family ranks my faith. I could not in good conscience go as far as using male pronouns.”

Assistant Principal Suzanne Aunspach told the board that she met with the student’s parents over the summer and was informed he was transitioning and wanted to be addressed with male pronouns. Aunspach then met with all the student’s teachers to notify them of the change.

He was initially suspended for referring to the student as “she” during a school activity, and was subsequently placed on administrative leave. Following his statement, which was met with a round of applause. A board member then asked Vlaming if he would continue not to use male pronouns when referring to the student and he said, “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.”

“And so you will refuse to use male pronouns to refer to the student in question, is that correct?” the board member continued. “Correct,” Vlaming said.

Vlaming was officially terminated on Thursday.