The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a lawsuit from former West Point High School French teacher Peter Vlaming, who was fired from the district in 2018 for not using a student’s preferred pronouns. The court granted the appeal Thursday, according to announcement from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“Peter wasn’t fired for something he said; he was fired for something he couldn’t say,” ADF Senior Counsel Chris Schandevel said in the release. “As a teacher, Peter was passionate about the subject he taught, he was well-liked by his students, and he did his best to accommodate their needs and requests. But Peter could not in good conscience speak messages that he does not believe to be true.”
According to ADF, Vlaming taught French in the West Point Public School District for six years. Near the end of the 2018 school year, a student asked to be referred to by a masculine name. Vlaming complied, and tried to avoid using any pronouns to refer to the student
“I understood her point of view and respected the fact that she could choose to think what she wants to think. And it’s not my place as a teacher to pronounce any position I might have on the subject, but I couldn’t in good conscience designate her via third person pronouns as a boy,” he told The Daily Signal in 2020.
School officials order Vlaming to stop avoiding the use of pronouns, and eventually fired Vlaming for harassing the student and insubordination. In a lawsuit, Vlaming sought to be reinstated to his job, but the Circuit Court for the County of King William dismissed the case, leading to the appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
The petition for appeal cited Virginia’s Constitution which provides freedom of speech and religious exercise.
“The School Defendants fired Peter Vlaming, a high–school French teacher, because he declined the School’s demand that he affirmatively express his personal agreement with messages that violate his religious beliefs,” the petition said.
“We’re pleased the Virginia Supreme Court agreed to hear this important case and are hopeful the court will agree the school board violated Peter’s rights under the Virginia Constitution and state law,” Schandevel said in the press release.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Peter Vlaming” by ADF. Background Photo “Virginia Supreme Court” by Morgan Riley. CC BY 3.0.