A Christian school teacher has been fired from his job after refusing to address a transgender student by her preferred pronoun, commonly known as “misgendering.” Virginia’s West Point School Board voted unanimously 5-0 to fire Peter Vlaming from over the incident, marking the first ever time a teacher has been fired over a case of “misgendering” in the state of Virginia.
Vlaming, 47, was accused of refusing to call a biologically female student of West Point High School by her preferred male pronoun. According to reports, Vlaming did not intentionally call the student by the wrong pronoun but instead chose to eliminate “he” or “she” when talking about the student in question.
“My religious faith dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not” Vlaming noted, “because we are all made in God’s image.”
“I’m totally happy to use the new name,” Vlaming told WWBT-TV. “I’m happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I’m not here to provoke … but I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”
As a result of his actions, Vlaming was placed on administrative leave in October. West Point Schools Superintendent Laura Abel said that Vlaming’s refusal to use pronouns caused the student to feel singled out and discriminated against.
“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” Abel added, according to the Daily Signal.
Following a complaint lodged against Mr. Vlaming, school administrators concluded that he had, in fact, broken school policies which guard against harassment and discrimination.
“Mr. Vlaming was recommended for termination due to his insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators,” Abel noted in her statement.
As per the school’s policy, it appears Vlaming was fired for failing to protect the rights of the transgender student. However, the school has issued no official guidance on the use of pronouns, causing many to question the legitimacy of his firing. Vlaming’s lawyer, Shawn Voyles said that his client’s constitutional rights had been violated, and that any faculty member should “be free from being compelled to speak something that violates conscience,” as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Many parents and students have also rallied behind their much-loved teacher.
“If there’s no policy in place, how can they just let him go?” West Point High School parent Jennifer Haynes said.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help out Vlaming and his family with its finances following his termination.
“Peter Vlaming was terminated from his position as a French teacher at West Point High School in Virginia today due to his failure to violate his conscience and use male pronouns for a biologically female student who is transitioning to the gender identity of male,” the page reads. “This family is now without his salary and benefits. Peter stood by his conscience and the price has been high. The probability of an extended legal battle and the loss of his income and career at the age of 47, place this young family of Peter, his wife Natalie and their four children, in peril. All this just before Christmas. Please join me in supporting the courageous stand that this family has taken.”
So far, over $11,000 has been raised for the family, and many messages of support have been pouring in.
“He should be allowed to be true to his beliefs and the student needs to learn that she won’t always get what she wants,” one person commented.
“This gentleman’s values and beliefs have been completely discarded,” another added, “you cannot change your chromosomal makeup. The teacher’s lawyers should be arguing this point.”