Vlaming v. West Point School Board
Description: High school French teacher Peter Vlaming was fired from his job in West Point, Virginia for declining to refer to a female student with male pronouns even though he consistently accommodated the student’s requests and used the student’s preferred name instead of the student’s given name.
Teacher fired over pronoun policy asks VA Supreme Court to uphold his right not to be forced to violate his beliefs
WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys
WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments in Vlaming v. West Point School Board
WHEN: Immediately following hearing, which begins at 9:00 a.m. EDT, Friday, Nov. 4
WHERE: Virginia Supreme Court, 100 N. 9th St., Richmond, or listen to the hearing. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Manager Ellie Wittman at (202) 503-7984.
RICHMOND, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a high school French teacher fired for avoiding the use of personal pronouns to refer to one of his students will be available for media interviews Friday following oral arguments in Vlaming v. West Point School Board at the Virginia Supreme Court.
The West Point School Board fired Peter Vlaming, who had taught in the district for nearly seven years, after he stated he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the superintendent’s demand that he refer to one of his students using pronouns inconsistent with the student’s sex. Vlaming tried to accommodate the student by consistently using the student’s new preferred name and by avoiding the use of pronouns altogether. But school officials ordered him to stop avoiding the use of pronouns to refer to the student, even when the student wasn’t present, and to start using pronouns inconsistent with the student’s sex.
“Peter wasn’t fired for something he said; he was fired for something he couldn’t say,” said ADF Senior Counsel Chris Schandevel, who will be arguing before the court on behalf of Vlaming. “As a teacher, Peter was passionate about the subject he taught, he was well-liked by his students, and he did his best to accommodate their needs and requests. But Peter could not in good conscience speak messages that he doesn’t believe to be true. We hope the Virginia Supreme Court will agree that by firing him for those beliefs, the school board violated Peter’s rights under the Virginia Constitution and state law.”
In May, the Virginia attorney general, physicians, feminists, legal scholars, and a variety of organizations all filed briefs with the commonwealth’s highest court in support of Vlaming.
Shawn Voyles, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, is serving as co-counsel on Vlaming’s behalf.
- Pronunciation guide: Vlaming (VLAMM’-ing), Schandevel (SHAN’-deh-vell)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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Chris Schandevel serves as senior counsel on Alliance Defending Freedom’s Appellate Advocacy Team. Before joining ADF, Schandevel served as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals Section at the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. Prior to his time at the Virginia attorney general’s office, Schandevel clerked for the Honorable Stephen R. McCullough on the Court of Appeals of Virginia. Schandevel earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2012. Schandevel earned his B.A. in Social Work from Harding University in 2009. A member of the state bar of Virginia, Schandevel is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and various state and federal trial and appellate courts.
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and director of its Center for Academic Freedom. Before joining ADF, Langhofer was a partner with Stinson Leonard Street LLP, where he worked as a commercial litigation attorney for 15 years and earned Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent® rating. Langhofer earned his Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1999. He obtained a B.A. in international business with a minor in economics from Wichita State University in 1996. A member of the bar in Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona, Langhofer is also admitted to practice in numerous federal district courts.
Caleb Dalton serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role at the Center for Academic Freedom. Since joining ADF in 2013, Dalton has served on multiple teams representing private individuals and government entities to affirm the fundamental freedoms of speech and religious liberty. In 2017, he joined the Center for Academic Freedom where he has represented clients seeking to speak freely on campus without fear of unconstitutional government censorship. Dalton earned a J.D. at the Regent University School of Law, graduating cum laude. He is a member of the bar in Arizona, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; he is also admitted to practice before multiple federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.