Refusing to use a student’s “new and preferred” pronoun can now get you fired, at least in Virginia.
Teacher Peter Vlaming discovered this the hard way last week when he was dismissed from his teaching position at a local school. According to NBC News, the school board in West Point voted unanimously to fire the teacher after a prolonged, four-hour hearing. Despite protests and arguments to the contrary, the teacher was ultimately let go for “insubordination”.
Vlaming’s offense was simply failing to call a female student a boy. The ninth grader in question decided she was a boy over the summer, and the family notified the school district about the change at the start of the school year. The French teacher is not accused of referring to her directly as female or using “her or she” in direct conversation, but in referring to the female as a girl while discussing her with others. According to witnesses, the incident occurred when the student was about to run into a wall. Vlaming asked other students to stop “her” before she was injured. The use of “her” is the core of the problem, according to the school.
“As detailed during the course of the public hearing, Mr. Vlaming was recommended for termination due to his insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives made to him by multiple WPPS administrators,” West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel said in a statement.
Vlaming had already been cautioned to call the student “her”; she had been in the teacher’s class the previous year, but had identified as female at the time. Vlaming stated his Christian faith would make it difficult to refer to the girl as male, but had managed to avoid the issue until the child was in harm’s way. Despite offering to only use the girl’s name and to avoid pronouns entirely, the teacher was dismissed.
“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” Vlaming’s attorney said.
Despite the offer of compromise by the teacher, the school district felt he was discriminating and determined he was being insubordinate to rules placed earlier this year regarding transgendered students.
The teacher was let go after years of service teaching French in the district. He and his lawyer are in the process of determining next steps and if an appeal is possible or even desirable at this point. The community turnout was high on both sides at the hearing, according to Fox News, with proponents of both sides on site to hear the outcome.
Perhaps it’s best that the teacher — who by any objective definition faced more discrimination than anyone else in this case — takes his talents elsewhere. A school district not run by politically correct authoritarians would probably be ideal, but those are becoming harder to come by.
~ Conservative Zone