On Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a high school teacher who was fired for refusing to use pronouns that didn’t match a student’s biological sex could have his lawsuit against the local school board reinstated.
Peter Vlaming taught French in the West Point School District for seven years. A female student claiming to be male had a new preferred name. Vlaming used the new preferred name but simply avoided using the student’s preferred pronouns. The school demanded he use the student’s preferred pronouns, even when the student was not present.
“Peter went out of his way to accommodate this student as he does all his students; his school fired him because he wouldn’t contradict his core beliefs,” Caleb Dalton of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had noted.
“The school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student. It was on a crusade to compel conformity. He works hard to make his students feel welcomed. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose.”
“He even used the student’s preferred masculine name and was willing to avoid using pronouns in the student’s presence. He just didn’t want to be forced to use a pronoun that offends his conscience. That’s entirely reasonable, and it’s his constitutionally protected right. Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street.”
“Peter wasn’t fired for something he said; he was fired for something he couldn’t say,” Chris Schandevel of ADF stated after the lawsuit was reinstated.
“The Virginia Supreme Court rightly agreed that Peter’s case against the school board for violating his rights under the Virginia Constitution and state law should proceed. As a teacher, Peter was passionate about the subject he taught, was well-liked by his students, and did his best to accommodate their needs and requests. But he couldn’t in good conscience speak messages that he doesn’t believe to be true, and no school board or government official can punish someone for that reason.”
The Virginia Supreme Court agreed that the Virginia Constitution “seeks to protect diversity of thought, diversity of speech, diversity of religion, and diversity of opinion,” adding, “Absent a truly compelling reason for doing so, no government committed to these principles can lawfully coerce its citizens into pledging verbal allegiance to ideological views that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“The West Point School Board violated that constitutional command when it tried to force Vlaming to endorse the school’s ideological viewpoints on gender identity,” Schandevel stated.
“And the Virginia Supreme Court rightly vindicated Vlaming’s right to stand by his convictions in its decision.”