Teacher who refused to use proper pronouns for trans students fired by school board

Activists and protesters with the National Center for Transgender Equality rally in front of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Washington, after the Department of Education and the Justice Department announce plans to overturn the school guidance on protecting transgender students.

Activists and protesters with the National Center for Transgender Equality rally in front of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Washington, after the Department of Education and the Justice Department announce plans to overturn the school guidance on protecting transgender students. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Newsweek reports that Virginia high school teacher Peter Vlaming was fired Thursday night after a five hour school board hearing. Vlaming refused to use a transgender student’s appropriate pronoun.

The West Point Public Schools school board voted unanimously, 5-0, to terminate Vlaming’s employment.

“I’m totally happy to use the new name,” Vlaming told the local news station WWBT.

He went on to say, “I’m happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I’m not here to provoke…but I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”

The school board believes his actions discriminated against the student and were insubordinate. Vlaming was told several times by school administrators to respect the student’s transition, but he did not obey their directions, according to school officials.

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Following the decision, Shawn Voyles, Vlaming’s attorney, said that his client’s rights as a teacher should also be considered.

“Tolerance is a two-way street,” Volyes told WWBT. “My client respects this student’s rights; he is simply asking that his rights be respected as well.”

“The student is absolutely free to identify as the student pleases. The school board adopted one viewpoint and required Mr. Vlaming, at the cost of his job, to repeat that ideology, repeat that viewpoint. That’s where it’s compelled speech. That’s where it violates his First Amendment right, he still retains as a public employee.”

The act of purposely referring to someone with their pretransition pronouns is known as misgendering and the act of intentionally using someone’s birth name, or name before transition, is known as “dead naming.”

In November, Twitter updated its terms and services warning users who purposely misgender or “dead name” people face permanent suspension as a way to protect transgender individuals on the platform.

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