Peter Vlaming — a Christian — was fired in December 2018 after refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred masculine pronouns. Now, he’s suing the school district.
The former teacher filed the state lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the County of King William in Virginia on Monday, according to WTVR-TV. In the suit, Vlaming is arguing the school board breached his rights under the Virginia Constitution and commonwealth law.
Vlaming was a French teacher at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia, and was fired when he refused to refer to a transgender student by “he, him, his” pronouns. Seeking compromise, Vlaming said he would use only the student’s name and avoid pronouns altogether.
But then, on Oct. 31, 2018, all of Vleming’s students were walking around the classroom wearing virtual reality goggles, according to The Washington Post. The transgender student was about to walk into something when Vlaming asked another student to help out, shouting, “Don’t let her hit the wall.”
That was apparently the last straw for the transgender kid, who withdrew from Vlaming’s class. Following the incident, school officials suspended Vlaming for insubordination, and the school board later fired him.
Vlaming, however, isn’t going down without a fight.
He’s now arguing in his suit that the school district violated his free speech rights as well as his right to the free exercise of religion. He is being represented by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Vlaming’s conscience and religious practice prevents him from intentionally lying,” his lawsuit claims. “And he sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie.”
The 47-year-old educator’s lawyer, Caleb Dalton, has said Vlaming went out of his way to accommodate the transgender student, but “the school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student.” The board’s singular goal, he added, was “to compel conformity.”
Vlaming argues he is now facing punishment “for what I haven’t said.”
“I’m totally happy to use the new name,” he continued. “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.”