Virginia School board members fire teacher who refused to use ‘preferred pronouns’

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By Tyler Arnold (The Center Square)

Eight school board members from five school divisions filed a petition with the Virginia Supreme Court in support of West Point Public Schools after the district fired a teacher who refused to use a student’s favorite pronouns.

High school French teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job because he refused to use masculine pronouns to refer to a biologically female student who asked him to use masculine pronouns. The school board claimed that his refusal to use masculine pronouns was transgender discrimination based on gender identity.

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Vlaming filed a lawsuit to get his job back. According to his lawyers, Vlaming consistently used the student’s preferred name, but did not feel comfortable using masculine pronouns. On the contrary, the teacher avoided using pronouns altogether. In the lawsuit, Fleming’s attorneys argued that the school violated the First Amendment and Virginia law by attempting to force a speaker to speak.

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“This isn’t just about a pronoun, it’s about what that pronoun means,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer at the time of the first trial. “This was never about anything Peter said or did; only about what the school required him to say. No one should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job.”

With the case now before the Virginia Supreme Court, several outside groups and individuals have signed an amicus brief in defense of the school system. Eight school administrators in five locations support the school: three in Falls Church, two in Arlington, one in Fairfax, one in Charlottesville and one in Stafford. An inspector in Richmond also signed the order.

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“Transgender and non-binary students, compared to their cisgender peers, are more likely to face physical abuse, bullying and extreme emotional harm, impacting their well-being and education,” said Narissa S. Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia. , who led the letter, said in a statement.

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“The West Point School Board’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies are designed to counter and prevent this harm,” Rahaman added. “We know that transgender students thrive when they are supported by an inclusive school environment, including the use of their correct pronouns.”

Last year, a Loudoun County teacher who criticized a proposed transgender policy at a public hearing reached a settlement with the school district after being put on administrative leave for his comments. The teacher, Tanner Cross, was allowed to keep his job, according to the settlement agreement. Cross was also represented by ADF.

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.