After nearly seven years of teaching French at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia, Peter Vlaming is out of a job.
The school board unanimously agreed to fire the educator Thursday over his refusal to use new pronouns when addressing a transgender student.
What are the details?
A West Point ninth-grader who was born female transitioned to identifying as male over the summer, and the student complained that Vlaming made the student feel uncomfortable and singled out by not specifically referring to the student as "him," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Vlaming, 47, had taught the student the year before the reported transition. After the switch, Vlaming agreed to call the student by a new chosen name but avoided using pronouns to refer to the student at all because of the teacher's Christian faith.
School administrators suspended Vlaming — who also served as a soccer coach and bus driver — for refusing to refer to the student as "he" or "him" and recommended his termination.
On Thursday, the school board held a hearing before voting on Vlaming's fate. The Times-Dispatch said the overflow crowd was comprised mostly of parents and students who supported Vlaming and described him as a model educator.
During the hearing, Vlaming defended himself, calling it absurd that he would be punished for discrimination simply on the basis of abstaining from pronoun usage, with no other malicious accusations being lobbed at him.
"I am being punished for what I haven't said," Vlaming argued.
"I'm totally happy to use the new name," Vlaming insisted, according to WWBT-TV. "I'm happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I'm not here to provoke ... but I can't refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith."
Vlaming's attorney argued his client has rights as a teacher, WWBT reported.
"Tolerance is a two-way street," said Shawn Voyles, Vlaming's attorney, to the outlet. "My client respects this student's rights; he is simply asking that his rights be respected as well… The student is absolutely free to identify as the student pleases. The school board adopted one viewpoint and required Mr. Vlaming, at the cost of his job, to repeat that ideology, repeat that viewpoint. That's where it's compelled speech. That's where it violates his First Amendment right he still retains as a public employee."
How did the board vote?
The school board saw the situation differently, voting 5-0 to fire the teacher.
Later, the West Point school system issued a statement saying, "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."