A teacher who refused to call a student by his preferred masculine pronouns and was fired for doing so has now sued the school district claiming that using the requested pronouns would be “telling a lie.”
In 2018 Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School in Virginia, was told by a student who had recently transitioned to use their preferred masculine pronouns, The Washington Post reports. Vlaming refused, claiming religious reasons, but was told by the school that he had to use the student’s correct pronouns or face disciplinary action. Vlaming used feminine pronouns when describing the student several months after the warning and was ultimately fired, with the school citing insubordination.
On Monday Vlaming sued school district officials for “violating his right to speak freely and exercise his religion” and for punishing teachers who identify students based on their “biological sex,” the Washington Post reports. One of his lawyers claims that the school forced Vlaming to “take sides in an ongoing public debate about gender dysphoria”—to which I’d say that adamantly insisting to call someone by their pre-transition pronouns is, in fact, taking a side in that so-called “debate.” It’s the side that makes schools unsafe and alienating places for students to learn and grow, which is literally the opposite of a teacher’s job.
The lawsuit isn’t surprising given the level of hostility many trans and gender nonconforming students face in school. From arguments about whether teens are allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender to the mental health issues teens face when their schools and families don’t support their transition, even the majority of trans and nonbinary teachers face harassment in schools.