According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 47-year-old French teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job Thursday after he stood his ground and refused to comply with his school district’s orders that he stop “mispronouning” a student in his class at West Point High School, about 35 miles east of Richmond, Virginia.
The female student in question was in Vlaming’s class the past two school years and identified as a female. This school year, Vlaming was told she now identified as male, but he found it difficult and slipped up a couple times, according to a petition created to support Vlaming.
The student’s parents complained, leading to Vlaming being ordered by school administration to always call the student a “he.” The teacher refused.
"I won't use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male, though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns,” Vlaming said, according to the petition. “Administration is requiring that I use masculine pronouns in any and every context at school. I was informed that any further instances of using female pronouns would be grounds for termination."
The teacher said his Christian faith prevents him from complying. He tried to reach a compromise with the district involving “mutual tolerance” — showing tolerance for his faith as well as the student’s wishes — and added that his views are nothing strange because they’ve been held by “most of the world for most of human history.”
The district refused to compromise, though, leading Vlaming to remark, “That is not tolerance. That is coercion.”
West Point High Principal Jonathan Hochman accused Vlaming of committing what is tantamount to a great evil by “mispronouning” the student, saying, “I can’t think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening.”
The school board voted 5-0 on Thursday to fire Vlaming. A public hearing before the vote drew a crowd of parents and students so large it flowed out of the room. They were largely supportive of the teacher.
As a result of the board’s decision, students staged a walkout Friday in support of their beloved teacher.
The district claims Vlaming violated a new non-discrimination policy. Vlaming hired attorney Shawn Voyles, who says that policy is vague and says nothing about the use of pronouns. He added that his client’s constitutionally protected rights are being trampled on.
“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” he said.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Vlaming.