“Recommended for termination due to insubordination.”
A Virginia high school fired a teacher Thursday for avoiding the use of pronouns when talking to a transgender student.
The refusal of Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School, to use male pronouns when talking to a trans male student was motivated by religious beliefs, he told ABC Friday. While Vlaming agreed to call the student by their new name, he was wary of the linguistic landmines of pronouns. He didn’t want to call the student by their preferred pronoun, but nor did he wish to offend them. So he tried to avoid pronouns altogether, although on occasion referring to the student as “she.”
According to a statement issued by the school board, this violated West Point’s nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies.
After Vlaming was granted a public hearing earlier this week, Laura Abel, the school’s superintendent, recommended terminating Vlaming’s employment due to “insubordination.”
“Mr. Vlaming was recommended for termination due to insubordination through his repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple West Point Public School administrators. As superintendent, it is my responsibility to enforce board policy, and due to Mr. Vlaming’s non-compliance I therefore recommended termination,” a statement by Abel read.
But Vlaming insisted that he was doing his best to navigate his beliefs with the school’s demands.
“My religious faith dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not. Because we are all made in God’s image,” Vlaming said earlier this week in anticipation of the hearing, ABC’s Richmond affiliate News8 reported Monday.
I am also aware of, and agree, with speech limits that are placed on public school teachers, concerning matters of religious faith. I represent the state in my role as a public school teacher and therefore speak with a certain authority. That authority is not to be used to promote any one specific worldview, and I don’t. However, we are here today because a specific worldview is being imposed upon me.
In the hearing, principal Jonathan Hochman said that Vlaming once confided in him that he misses “the female version of the student.”
The school sided with Abel and on Thursday Vlaming was fired.
“The School Board has adopted policies and tonight we upheld these policies,” the statement read.
Some students, recognizing that the culture war has reached their school, protested Vlaming’s suspension and later firing.
Forrest Rohde, a junior, told News8 on Monday that he’s “outraged.” Covering the school with posters that read, “Justice for Vlaming” and, “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings” (a motto popularized by hyper conservative commentator Ben Shapiro), Rhode said that the trans student “has the right to be whatever she wants but just because she has the right doesn’t mean we’re not obliged to follow her beliefs.”
“I see this stuff on the news far away from here,” Rohde said, “but when it hits close to home and someone’s free speech is being violated, I have to step in and say something about it.”
A GoFundMe campaign to support the 47-year-old Vlaming and his wife and three children was started soon after the firing was announced. It has already raised $2,000.