Public hearing Thursday for WP teacher who refused to use student's preferred identity pronoun

The West Point School Board will hold a public hearing Thursday for a teacher who is on administrative leave for refusing to use a student’s preferred identity pronoun.

West Point High School French teacher Peter Vlaming, who has taught at the school for seven years, has been on administrative leave since Oct. 31 for objecting to use a student’s preferred male pronoun citing religious beliefs, according to Vlaming.

“The superintendent has recommended that the school board fire me because I won’t use male pronouns for a female student who identifies as male,” Vlaming said. “This requirement violates my sincerely held Christian beliefs.”

Vlaming said he is more than willing to use the student’s newly adopted name and avoid pronouns that would be offensive to the student.

Vlaming’s attorney Shawn A. Voyles with McKenry Dancigers Dawson, PC of Virginia Beach said that the school division administration has been unwilling to compromise.

“This is a man who has taught in public education for 10 years, established the first girls’ soccer team at West Point High, was the first sponsor of the Rotary Interact Service Club and who is a fill-in school bus driver at times to further supplement income for his family of six,” Voyles said.

Division superintendent Laura Abel said the division will continue to follow Virginia Code and all local policies and procedures relating to licensed staff members.

“Because this is a personnel issue, we are unable to provide specific information due to employee and student confidentiality,” Abel said in an email statement. “Mr. Vlaming has requested a public hearing and details regarding our recommendations will become public at that hearing. Until that time, it is important that we not only ensure the integrity of our employment process but also meet our responsibilities regarding safeguarding student and staff confidentiality.”

Neither party would comment on specifics in terms of the student or the sequence of events that led to Vlaming being placed on leave.

The public hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, there will be no public comment period. The school board can vote on Vlaming’s employment status after the hearing or have 30 days to make a decision. The meeting will be held in the West Point High School chorus room, 2700 Mattaponi Ave.

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