Tyler Arnold (Central Square)
Eight school board members from five districts filed a brief with the Virginia Supreme Court in support of West Point Public Schools after the district fired a teacher who refused to use a student’s preferred pronoun.
High school French teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job after refusing to use masculine pronouns to refer to a schoolgirl in biology who asked him to use masculine pronouns. The school board claimed his refusal to use male pronouns was transgender based on gender identity.
Vlaming filed a lawsuit to restore his job. According to his attorney, Flaming had been using the student’s preferred name but felt uncomfortable using a male pronoun. Instead, teachers avoid pronouns entirely. In the lawsuit, Flaming’s attorneys argued that the school’s attempt to force speech violated the First Amendment and Virginia law.
“It’s not just a pronoun, it’s what the pronoun means,” ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said in the original lawsuit. “It’s not about anything Peter said or did; it’s just about what the school asked him to say. No one should be forced to go against his core beliefs in order to keep their jobs.”
Now that the case is before the Virginia Supreme Court, several outside groups and individuals have signed an amicus brief defending the school system. Eight school board members from five districts supported the school: three in Falls Church, two in Arlington, one in Fairfax, one in Charlottesville, and one in Stafford. A Richmond supervisor also signed off on the brief.
“Transgender and nonbinary students face higher levels of physical abuse, bullying, and extreme emotional harm than their cisgender peers, which can impact their well-being and education,” said Nalissa S., executive director of Virginia Equality Narissa S. Rahaman, who led the briefing, said in a statement.
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“West Point School Board’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies are designed to counteract and prevent these harms,” Rahaman added. “We know that trans students thrive when they are supported by an inclusive school environment, which includes using the correct pronouns.”
Last year, a Loudoun County school teacher who criticized a proposed transgender policy in public hearings settled with the school district after being asked for comment on administrative leave. Under the settlement, teacher Tanner Cross was allowed to keep her job. Cross is also represented by ADF.
Co-issued with permission from Central Plaza.