WEST POINT, Va. (AP/WRIC) — A high school teacher in West Point who was fired for refusing to use a transgender student’s new pronouns has filed a lawsuit against the school district.
Peter Vlaming says his rights to speak freely and exercise his religion were violated. The suit states that Vlaming “sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie.”
The French teacher was fired in December. He had told superiors at West Point High School that his religion prevented him from using male pronouns for a student who had informed the school of his transition during the summer.
“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 last December while reading from a prepared opening statement.
West Point Public Schools sent the following statement to WAVY sister station WRIC 8News:
“West Point Public Schools’ primary focus is on students, staff, and instruction, and we will continue to direct our energy toward maintaining a high-quality learning environment in our schools. The School Board denies any liability to Mr. Vlaming, and we intend to vigorously defend against any claims. The School Board does not intend to comment further on the pending litigation at this time.” — West Point Public Schools
8News legal analyst Russ Stone says “the lawsuit itself is interesting because it got some seriously constitutional principles butting heads. On the one hand, you have the student’s right with regard to sexual discrimination and things of that nature and that’s flying right in the face of another individual’s rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Caleb Dalton, Vlaming’s lawyer, told 8News: “He was really fired, not because of anything he did, but because of something he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t violate his faith and the school district wasn’t able to compromise.”
Vlaming’s attorney says he’s had a hard time providing for his family and has not been able to get another job in education.
“He was turned down every single time specifically because of what the school board did to him in this case. Nobody should have to go through this.”
The West Point school board will be served in the next couple of weeks and have a chance to respond to the lawsuit. As for Vlaming, he recently found a job outside of education to make ends meet and support his family.