Virginia teacher fired for not using trans student's preferred pronouns sues school district

Former West Point High School French teacher Peter Vlaming of Virginia, defending his refusal to use a transgender student's preferred pronouns. In December 2018, Vlaming was fired from his position as a result. | YouTube/CBS News

A Virginia teacher who was fired for not agreeing to use the preferred pronouns of a trans-identified student has filed a complaint against the school board that dismissed him.

Peter Vlaming, a former French teacher at West Point High School in Williamsburg, filed the complaint in the Circuit Court for the County of King William on Monday.

The lawsuit argued that the school board violated “Vlaming’s constitutional, statutory, and contractual rights” when they decided to fire him last year.

Vlaming is seeking a permanent injunction that allows him to be reinstated, a permanent injunction preventing the school board from punishing staff for their views on gender identity, $500,000 in damages for lost wages and benefits, and $500,000 in damages for “loss of reputation, pain, suffering, and emotional distress.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, is helping to represent Vlaming.

ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton said in a statement released Monday that he believes Vlaming's firing was “a crusade to compel conformity.”

“He works hard to make his students feel welcomed. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. He even used the student’s preferred masculine name and was willing to avoid using pronouns in the student’s presence,” said Dalton.

“He just didn’t want to be forced to use a pronoun that offends his conscience. That’s entirely reasonable, and it’s his constitutionally protected right. Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street.”

Last December, the West Point School Board unanimously decided to fire Vlaming over his refusal to use the chosen pronouns of a student who is biologically female but identifies as male.

Superintendent Laura Abel said in a statement released in December 2018 that school district leadership believed Vlaming was engaging in discrimination.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said Abel, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Soon after Vlaming was fired, a large group of West Point High School students staged a walkout in protest of the school board’s decision.

Forrest Rohde, the West Point High School junior who organized the walkout, told news outlets that the protest was not about the transgender student.

Rather, Rohde told NBC's Richmond affiliate they took issue with the school board “trying to force the teacher to conform to their ideologies with the threat of removal from the school.”

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