Virginia teacher reportedly fired for refusing to use pronoun for transgender student

The West Point School Board in Virginia reportedly decided to terminate one of their teachers on Thursday because he refused to use the pronouns that a transgender student identified with.

Peter Vlaming, who taught French at West Point High School, lost his job after the board made the unanimous 5-0 decision following a hearing, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“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 obtained by the outlet.

The situation reportedly came about after the 9th-grade student transitioned from a girl to a boy, following which the school was notified.

Vlaming was the student’s teacher during the previous school year, at the time of which they identified as a female, he told the outlet.

While Vlaming conceded to referring to the student by their male name, he refrained from addressing him by any identifying pronoun, the Times-Dispatch said. He reportedly cited his belief as a Christian as the reason why he wouldn’t use male pronouns for the student.

The student revealed that the situation left him feeling ostracized, the outlet said and school officials reportedly backed the pupil.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” Abel told the Times-Dispatch. “They felt disrespected.”

As a result, officials suggested that the teacher be terminated because his actions were not in accordance with the school system’s nondiscrimination and harassment guidelines, the outlet said.

Shawn Voyles, Vlaming’s legal representation, told the Times-Dispatch that although the recently-updated guidelines safeguarded gender identity, they did not include specifications on pronoun usage.

Vlaming told the outlet that the situation wasn’t about “tolerance,” but rather “coercion.” He also said that he attempted to find a suitable outcome on “mutual tolerance,” but he was turned down.

“I am being punished for what I haven’t said,” Vlaming told the Times-Dispatch.

The teacher reportedly hasn’t decided whether he’ll launch an appeal.

Vlaming is not being accused of intentionally referring to the student as a female while he was around, the outlet noted. However, he did reportedly use female associations when talking to other people.

Neither the student nor their family took part in the school board’s hearing, the outlet said.

The school district responded to Fox News with the following statement:

"Last night, the School Board made a difficult decision after thoughtful consideration. It is the Board’s responsibility to adopt and uphold policy, and we unanimously voted to affirm the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate Mr. Vlaming.

"West Point Public Schools has the responsibility to ensure all students have a safe and supportive school environment where they can learn and thrive. We do not and cannot tolerate discrimination in any form, or actions that create a hostile environment for any member of our school family. Mr. Vlaming was asked repeatedly, over several weeks and by multiple administrators, to address a student by the pronouns with which this student identifies. The issue before us was not one mistaken slip of the tongue. Mr. Vlaming consistently refused to comply going forward -- including in a statement made at the hearing -- a willful violation of school board policy.

"While we understand that some do not agree with our decision, we hope to have discussions that help West Point Public Schools move forward, maintain our focus on excellence and instruction, and make a positive impact on the lives of our community’s children."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.