WEST POINT, Va. (WRIC) — Students and parents in West Point, a town roughly an hour east of Richmond, are rallying behind a teacher put on paid administrative leave following a transgender controversy at the school.
A French teacher at West Point High School, Peter Vlaming, is currently on paid administrative leave for not using a student’s preferred identity pronoun.
8News reached out to the school for comment but West Point Public Schools cited the incident as “a personnel issue” and declined to respond about the status of Vlaming’s case.
Students told 8News that Vlaming won’t use male pronouns for a student who now identifies as a boy.
An online petition supporting Mr. Vlaming, which is titled “Don’t terminate Mr. Vlaming,” has over 1,000 signatures. The petition quotes Vlaming on his thoughts on the incident:
“I won’t use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns. Administration is requiring that I use masculine pronouns in any and every context at school. I was informed that any further instances of using female pronouns would be grounds for termination.”
On Tuesday, 8News spoke with a West Point High School student who says he is also supporting Vlaming.
“I’m just outraged about it,” said Forrest Rohde, a West Point High School junior. “He’s a really nice guy, he wanted to do everything about his students. He really does care about his students. The thing he will not do is change his ways of thoughts and believing in things just to conform to someone else’s ideologies.”
Vlaming reportedly called a transgender student “she,” but the student wants to be identified as a male.
“The transgender girl 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,” Rohde said.
Rohde posted signs all over the school in support of the teacher after hearing Vlaming was put on administrative leave. The signs read: “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” “#Justice for Vlaming,” and “Mr. Vlaming is innocent.”
“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.”
The school confirmed to 8News on Tuesday that Vlaming is currently on paid administrative leave and that Vlaming requested a public hearing:
Mr. Vlaming is currently on paid administrative leave, and West Point Public Schools has followed and will continue to follow Virginia Code and all local policies and procedures relating to licensed staff members. The grievance process, including the purpose/results of a hearing, is governed by Virginia Code.
Because this is a personnel issue, we are unable to provide specific information due to employee and student confidentiality. Mr. Vlaming has requested a public hearing and details regarding our recommendations will become public at that hearing. Until that time, it is important that we not only ensure the integrity of our employment process but also meet our responsibilities regarding safeguarding student confidentiality.
– Abel Laura, West Point Public Schools superintendent
Legal analyst Russ Stone told 8News that it’s uncertain whether or not the school has grounds to fire Vlaming.
The school board scheduled the public hearing for Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. at West Point High School.
8News will be at the school board meeting on Thursday to share the latest.