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.
High school teacher fired over pronoun usage takes his case to Virginia Supreme Court
RICHMOND, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a high school teacher fired for declining to refer to a female student with male pronouns appealed his case to the Virginia Supreme Court Friday after the Circuit Court for the County of King William dismissed the case.
The West Point School Board fired Peter Vlaming, who taught French in the district for seven years, after he stated he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the superintendent’s order to refer to a female student as a male. Vlaming consistently used the student’s preferred name instead of the student’s given name, and although he attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns in an effort to accommodate the student, he was nonetheless directed to cease “avoiding the use of male pronouns” to refer to the student, even when the student wasn’t present.
“As a teacher, Peter was passionate about the subject he taught, well-liked by his students and accommodating to their needs and requests. And yet, when he went out of his way to accommodate a student’s requests, yet respectfully declined to speak in a manner that went against his conscience, none of his credentials mattered—he was fired,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “Tolerance is a two-way street, but the school board treated it as a one-way ratchet.”
“Peter has every right to fight this unlawful decision by the school board, and we will be defending him every step of the way,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Peter went above and beyond to treat this student with respect, including using the student’s preferred masculine name and avoiding pronoun usage in the student’s presence. This was never about anything Peter said—or didn’t say—it is about a school demanding total conformity in utter disregard of Peter’s efforts and his freedoms under Virginia law.”
In Vlaming v. West Point School Board, Vlaming is suing the school board for violating his rights under the Virginia Constitution and commonwealth law. Shawn Voyles, one of nearly 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as co-counsel in the case on behalf of Vlaming.
- Pronunciation guide: Vlaming (VLAMM’-ing), Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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Caleb Dalton, serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role at the Center for Academic Freedom. Since joining ADF in 2013, Dalton has engaged in cultural advocacy and litigation on behalf of government agencies and private individuals to affirm the value of marriage and the fundamental rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. In 2017, Dalton joined the Center for Academic Freedom where he represents 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. A member of the bar in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Arizona, he is also admitted to multiple federal district and appellate courts.
Tyson C. 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.