Teacher fired for refusing to use trans student’s pronouns is suing the school for $1million

A teacher in Virginia who was fired for refusing to use a trans student’s pronouns on the grounds of his religious beliefs is suing the school for $1 million.

Peter Vlaming, who was a French teacher at West Point High School, was fired in December 2018 after he said that using he/him pronouns for a teenage boy would violate his religious beliefs.

Vlaming has now filed a lawsuit against the school, demanding his job back, a declaration that his rights were violated and $1 million in damages.

He is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion Christian law firm that has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most influential groups informing the [Trump] administration’s attack on LGBTQ rights”.

The ADF is involved in several other anti-trans legal cases, including the case of Aimee Stephens, the woman fired from a Detroit funeral home two weeks after coming out as trans, which will be heard by the US Supreme Court on October 8.

After Vlaming was fired, Laura Abel, the school superintendent in West Point, said, “Discrimination… leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that. They felt disrespected.”

According to The Guardian, in October 2018 the student approached the teacher and said: “Mr Vlaming, you may have your religion but you need to respect who I am.”

Vlaming, the suit says, replied: “I’m sorry, this is difficult.”

The suit says he reported the exchange to the principal, who told him: “You know what you do to diffuse a situation like that? You say, ‘I’m sorry, I meant to say him.’”

Principal Jonathan Hochman later told a school board meeting considering whether to fire Vlaming he could not “think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening”.

The school-board meeting, which was open to the public, lasted for five-and-a-half hours before deciding to fire Vlaming.

West Point High School said in a statement after Vlaming was fired: “We do not and cannot tolerate discrimination in any form, or actions that create a hostile environment for any member of our school family.

“Mr. Vlaming was asked repeatedly, over several weeks and by multiple administrators, to address a student by the pronouns with which this student identifies. The issue before us was not one mistaken slip of the tongue. Mr. Vlaming consistently refused to comply going forward – including in a statement made at the hearing – a willful violation of school board policy.”

Vlaming’s lawyer said in a statement: “This isn’t just about a pronoun, it’s about what that pronoun means. This was never about anything Peter said or did; only about what the school was demanding he say. Nobody should be forced to contradict his core beliefs just to keep a job.”