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VA Supreme Court agrees to hear case of high school teacher fired over pronoun policy

ADF attorneys represent French teacher Peter Vlaming

Thursday, Mar 3, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear the case of Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher fired for avoiding the use of personal pronouns to refer to one of his students. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Vlaming had appealed his case to the Virginia Supreme Court after the Circuit Court for the County of King William dismissed the case.

The West Point School Board fired Vlaming, who taught French in the district for nearly six years, after he stated he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the superintendent’s order that he refer to one of his students using pronouns that were inconsistent with the student’s biological sex. Vlaming tried to accommodate the student by consistently using the student’s new chosen name instead of the student’s given 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 biological 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 argued the petition for appeal on Vlaming’s behalf. “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 does not believe to be true. We’re pleased the Virginia Supreme Court agreed to hear this important case and are hopeful the court will agree the school board violated Peter’s rights under the Virginia Constitution and state law.”

“Peter has every right to fight this unlawful decision by the school board, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to defend him at Virginia’s highest court,” 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 name and avoiding pronoun usage in the student’s presence. This was never about anything Peter said. It is about a school demanding total conformity in utter disregard of Peter’s efforts and his freedoms under Virginia law.”

Shawn Voyles, one of more than 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as co-counsel on Vlaming’s behalf in Vlaming v. West Point School Board.

  • Pronunciation guide: Vlaming (VLAMM’-ing), Schandevel (SHAN’-da-vel), 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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