News & Politics

Virginia Teacher Fired for Refusing to Use Transgender Student's 'Proper' Pronouns

In this Thursday Dec. 6, 2018 photo, high school teacher Peter Vlaming chats at a West Point School Board hearing in West Point, Va. The board voted unanimously to dismiss Vlaming, a high school teacher who refused to use a transgender student's new pronouns. (Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

A high school French teacher in Virginia has been fired for what he didn’t say.

Peter Vlaming, a devout Christian, refused to use male pronouns when referring to a female student who had “transitioned” the previous summer and now identifies as male. The student claimed the teacher’s refusal made her feel “uncomfortable and singled out,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Administrators sided with the boy, telling Vlaming he could not treat his transgender pupil differently than he treats others.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.”

School administrators recommended that Vlaming be fired, saying he had violated the school system’s nondiscrimination and harassment policies.

“Does this board expect its employees to follow its policies or not?” said attorney Stacy Haney, who was representing the school district.

The nondiscrimination policies were updated a year ago to include protections for gender identity, but Vlaming’s lawyer, Shawn Voyles, said there was no specific guidance on the use of gender pronouns.

Even as a public employee, Voyles said, Vlaming has constitutional rights of his own.

“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” Voyles said.

Oh, Mr. Voyles, that is so 1990s. Your “conscience” is irrelevant to the “greater good” of pretending that up is down, black is white, and girls are boys.

I can’t think of another case where someone lost their job for what they didn’t say. But this is apparently our future. We will be judged not only by what we say, but by what we don’t say or refuse to say. Ignorance won’t matter. Conscience won’t matter.

Speaking in his own defense, Vlaming said he loves and respects all his students and had tried to reach a solution based on “mutual tolerance.” That effort was rejected, he said, putting him at risk of losing his job for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history.”

“That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

What’s “tolerance” got to do with anything? This is about power and the exercise thereof. The notion of “tolerance” is quaint and old-fashioned, but hardly the point.

“You will be made to care,” wrote Erick Erickson in 2013 during the controversy over a baker who refused to make a gay wedding cake. A blind man can see where this is headed — criminalizing speech in the name of “inclusivity” or “tolerance” or any other buzzword or catchphrase.

Sorry, Ben. We couldn’t keep it.