Peter Vlaming was supervising the students during an activity last year when he shouted: "Don't let her hit the wall!" The next day, he was suspended.
The French teacher at West Point High School in Virginia had accidentally reported to the transgender student using the feminine pronoun, rather than their favorite masculine pronouns "he, he and his".
It was October 31st and the students had been divided into pairs, with one wearing glasses for virtual reality and the second giving instructions to stop them from coming across objects.
Mr. Vlaming noted that the student was about to enter the wall because his partner was not paying attention, so he called – immediately making his mistake. It was the last straw for the student, who retired from his class.
"Mr. Vlaming, you could have your religion, but you have to respect who I am," he said to the teacher. Mr. Vlaming reported the incident to the principal, who told him: "Do you know what you do to spread such a situation? You say:" I'm sorry, I wanted to say he. ' "
The school dismissed Mr. Vlaming in December, citing his repeated refusal to refer to the student using male pronouns. He is now suing the school district, saying that his religious rights and freedom of speech have been violated.
The lawsuit, filed Monday at the King William County Circuit Court, appoints the West Point School Board, Divisional Superintendent Laura Abel, High Point Principal Jonathan Hochman and Assistant Principal Suzanne Aunspach as defendants.
"The defendants gave Vlaming an ultimatum: use male pronouns for this student or lose their job", the complaint says. "Mr. Vlaming could not violate his conscience. And it cost him his job. "
Vlaming, he says, "sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male using an objectively masculine pronoun means a lie". The school authorities have tried to force him to "take a position in an ongoing public debate on gender dysphoria and use pronouns that express an objectively false ideological message", he adds.
"Mr Vlaming considers both a question of human anatomy and a religious conviction that sex is biologically fixed in every person and cannot be changed independently of a person's feelings or desires," he says. "To say" he "," he "or" his "objectively expresses the message that a person is or that the speaker believes to be male."
The cause states rather than use masculine pronouns, but instead called the student with his favorite male name and avoided using pronouns altogether.
This did not satisfy the school authorities, who requested the use of male pronouns to refer to the student in all situations, with the principal assistant who told him that his "personal religious beliefs end up at the door of the school".
He was warned that he would face disciplinary action if he refused to comply. The October incident was the first time he used the wrong pronoun in the presence of the student – but it was also the last straw for school.
"I can't think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening," said Hochman at a school board meeting, according to the Associated Press.
The school council voted unanimously to dismiss Mr. Vlaming in a five-hour meeting in December. The next day, about 100 students staged a strike for the popular teacher with signs that read: "Men are men and women are women" and "You cannot impose disappointment on us", reports NBC News.
"Peter did everything to accommodate this student like all his students. His school fired him because he would not contradict his fundamental convictions, "the lawyer of the Alliance for the defense of freedom Caleb Dalton said in a statement.
"At the school board it didn't matter how well Peter treated this student. He was on a crusade to force compliance. He works hard to make his students feel welcome. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. even used the student's favorite male name and was willing to avoid the use of pronouns in the presence of the student. He did not want to be forced to use a pronoun that offended his consciousness. It is quite reasonable and is his constitutionally protected right. . Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street. "
In a statement, Mr. Vlaming said he was "saddened by the fact that the West Point public schools would not work with me to achieve a happy situation for everyone on this topic so that we could all continue with learning in mutual respect".
"The main focus of West Point public schools is on students, staff and education and we will continue to direct our energies towards maintaining a high quality learning environment in our schools," the spokesman said.