Va. Supreme Court hears arguments in former West Point teacher pronoun case
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Supreme Court of Virginia heard arguments on Tuesday to determine if the case of the 2018 firing of a West Point French teacher would go forward.
Peter Vlaming lost at West Point High School after refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.
In 2019, Vlaming sued the West Point School Board for his termination in King William County Circuit Court. However, his attorneys said the suit was dismissed without the court hearing a shred of evidence or even holding a trial.
“We’re appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia asking them to hear his case and to vindicate his Constitutional rights under the Virginia Constitution,” said Chris Schandevel, one of Vlaming’s attorneys who is with the Alliance Defending Freedom Center.
In Dec. 2018, after a nearly 6-hour school board meeting, the West Point Schools Superintendent fired Vlaming citing, “insubordination and repeated refusal to comply with directives.”
The French teacher of six years at the high school said he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the school system’s order to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.
“He was ultimately fired from that position not because of anything he said, but for something he couldn’t say,” Schandevel said. “He couldn’t express messages that violated his religious beliefs and his core beliefs.”
Court documents state Vlaming consistently used the student’s preferred name and would try to avoid the use of pronouns.
Ultimately, his attorneys claim the school system violated his state constitutional and statutory free exercise and free-speech rights.
“This kind of radical movement, really statewide by a lot of school boards to force employees, school employees, teachers and even parents of students to conform to their preferred ideology is really going to have the effect of driving really good teachers out of our school system,” Schandevel said.
“That contention that teachers are leaving their job over schools and classrooms becoming more inclusive and more welcoming - I think that’s completely made up,” said James Millner, with Virginia Pride.
Millner was at the school board meeting in 2018. He believes the school system had a right to fire Vlaming.
“Mr. Vlaming does not have to deserve to have his job restored or to be repaid damages for intentionally misgendering a transgender student, which we know causes harm,” he said.
Since his termination, Vlaming’s attorney said his client tried to apply for jobs in other school systems but was never hired. As a result, he ended up moving back to France.
The State Supreme Court did not give a ruling Tuesday; however, it’s expected sometime in the future.
On Tuesday, the West Point Schools Superintendent had “no comment” on the Supreme Court.
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