Teacher Fired For Not Using Student’s “Preferred Pronouns”

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A high school French teacher in Virginia was fired for refusing to use a transgender-identified student's preferred pronouns.

Peter Vlaming was a popular teacher at West Point High School. A female student, who had been in Vlaming's class the previous year, now identifies as a boy. She asked Vlaming to use her newly chosen male name and to use masculine pronouns when referring to her.

Vlaming did not agree with the student's transgender ideology that says a girl can transition into a boy. He agreed to use the new name, but tried to avoid using pronouns when referring to the transgender-identified student. He slipped up on two occasions, referring to the student as "her."

For those offenses, and for refusing to sign a statement that he wouldn't refer to the student as a female, he was put on administrative leave back in October. Now, after a contentious four-hour hearing, the school board voted unanimously to terminate him.

At the hearing, Vlaming read a statement where he explained, "My religious faith dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not. Because we are all made in God's image." He also stated that the school district was imposing a worldview on him – one he disagreed with.

Vlaming said that he had tried to work out a respectful agreement with the student and the school, but that the school rejected his efforts. His lawyer, Shawn Voles, told reporters, "Public schools have no business compelling people to express ideological beliefs that they don't hold. This isn't just about a pronoun; this is about forcing someone to endorse an ideology under threat of losing his job. That's neither legal nor constitutional."

Voyles also said that the school district had no specific guidance with regard to male-female pronouns. He also pointed out that the principal of West Point High School accidentally used a female pronoun – not her preferred new male pronouns – for the student during the board hearing.

Students have started a petition to support Mr. Vlaming, and he and his lawyer are considering options for appealing his firing.

The Worst Way to Treat a Child?

Referring to Vlaming's refusal to use the student's preferred pronouns, West Point High Principal Jonathan Hochman said, "I can't think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening."

We can.

Agreeing with and facilitating a child's gender confusion is far worse than using the wrong pronoun. For parents and schools to encourage and enable a teenager's delusion – that she is really a boy despite her girl's body – is, in the words of Dr. Paul McHugh, "to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it."

Dr. McHugh is the University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For twenty-six years, he served as the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was there, in the 1980s, that he studied those who had "sex-reassignment surgery" and found that they were no more mentally and psychologically healthy after the surgery than before. He concluded that psychiatrists "would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia."

Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, agrees. She calls the use of puberty blockers, opposite-sex hormones and surgery, and its encouragement by the pediatric community, "institutionalized child abuse." Such treatments are risky and may have life-long negative consequences.

In a recent presentation, Cretella said, "America is engaged in large-scale child abuse...and complicit in this is my field. People have a biological sex – we don't have something additional to that which is hardwired into our brains or our DNA. Sex is not assigned by people . . . it declares itself. Our bodies tell us who they are."

Children conflicted about their sexual identity – and their families – should have access to compassionate, sensitive pastoral and counseling care that would help the child work through confusion, find healing and embrace his or her bodily reality as a good gift from God.

Those who disagree with transgender ideology, like Mr. Vlaming, should be free to live out their lives without coercion by the state or a school board.

Additional Resources:

For more on the transgender ideology and how it's affecting education, read Schools: Latest target of transgender ideology. Transgender Resources lists all of Focus on the Family's articles and resources on this issue. For those struggling with transgenderism, or for those with gender-confused children, Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective and has referrals for licensed Christian counselors in your area.

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