The Firing of Peter Vlaming

Last week I watched as the West Point School Board voted unanimously to fire their French teacher, Peter Vlaming.

After teaching for six and a half years with an unblemished record, Peter Vlaming was fired for one offense.

What was Peter Vlaming’s one offense? What was it that the school’s Principal described as so awful that, in his words, “I can’t imagine a worse way to treat a student.”

What did this beloved and devoted teacher do that was so terrible?

Nothing.

Literally. He didn’t do anything. He was fired not because of something he did, but because of something that he refused to do, or rather, to say.

Peter Vlaming had his livelihood taken from him because he refused to use the male pronouns “he,” “him,” and “his” to describe a female student (who decided to begin identifying as a boy) in his class.

He wasn’t maliciously calling the student cruel names. He wasn’t intentionally “misgendering” the student (that is, using the biologically correct pronouns to describe her). In fact, he had committed to use the student’s chosen name and to not use female pronouns at all when addressing the student so as not to offend. He was simply following his conscience, which could not permit him to use male pronouns to describe a female student.

The reason he was fired for this was because it was interpreted as being a violation of the school’s new non-discrimination policy that protects people from discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.”

When I watched this happen, I assumed that the firing of Peter Vlaming was a sad, but unintended, consequence of the well-intentioned non-discrimination policy.

I was wrong.

The firing of Peter Vlaming wasn’t an unintended consequence. It was the goal.

I realize now that those pushing for the inclusion of “gender identity” in the non-discrimination policies want to rid schools of good teachers like Peter Vlaming all over the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On Tuesday of this week the Stafford County school board was considering a similar policy. One board member, Dr. Sarah Chase, said,

Quite frankly, it’s really not okay with me for a teacher to refuse to call a student by the name they wish to be called and by the pronouns they wish to be called. I actually consider that bullying. I am absolutely opposed to our students being bullied by our teachers.

It is clear that there is absolutely no room for religious conviction or conscience protections in these policies.

If the Stafford County School Board passes this proposed policy at their January 22nd meeting, good teachers like Mr. Vlaming will be fired. Teachers who follow their conscience will be fired. Teachers who don’t use “him” to describe “her” and vice versa will be fired.

This is not the unintended consequence of these new non-discrimination policies. This is the goal.

I am planning to attend the Stafford County Public School meeting on January 22. Please email me right away if your school board is considering including “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policy. I can be reached at sean@familyfoundation.org.