Thursday, December 13, 2018

This Teacher Was Fired for ‘Misgendering’ a Student. Who Could Be Next?

Last week, a Virginia school board voted unanimously to fire a teacher after he refused to comply with administrators’ orders to use a female student’s preferred masculine pronouns. The student “transitioned” over the summer and began identifying as a man.

This latest casualty in the culture wars raises the obvious question: Who could be next?

Peter Vlaming went to great lengths to accommodate the student without violating his Christian faith. He used the student’s new name to avoid upsetting the student, but refrained from using pronouns altogether in the student’s presence to avoid speaking against his belief that God created human beings male and female.

“I’m happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I’m not here to provoke,” Vlaming told the press, “but I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”

However, this was not enough to satisfy the student’s family or the board.

“I can’t think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening,” said the principal, who had ordered the teacher to use the student’s preferred pronouns against his beliefs.

This incident does not bode well for future conflicts over transgender policies. As more of these conflicts arise in schools, hospitals, shelters, and businesses, America must allow its citizens to think about and debate these issues freely.

No one should fear losing their job because they believe that men and women are biological realities that are not interchangeable.

Unfortunately, government coercion as a weapon of the culture wars is now spreading across the professions.

First, there were cases in the wedding industry where the government tried to force people to violate their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman—florists, bakers, photographers, wedding venues, and so forth.

Then those lawsuits spread to even more industries—videography, web design, calligraphy studios, and public service.

Now, the government is beginning to penalize people who hold that there are two biological sexes. For example, a Catholic hospital was sued for refusing to remove a biological female’s healthy uterus to pursue gender transition. Meanwhile, two parents lost custody of their teenage daughter for refusing to allow their child to take testosterone and identify as a boy.

This could be just the beginning. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recently announced that the Equality Act will be a top Democratic priority in 2019. The bill would impose controversial transgender policies on the nation by elevating “gender identity” to protected status in federal anti-discrimination law.

This would have drastic implications for average Americans. It would open up sex-specific facilities like bathrooms, locker rooms, and shelters to members of the opposite biological sex. It would allow biological males to compete on women’s sports teams. It would force health care providers and insurance companies to provide and pay for radical transgender therapies.

In brief, stories like Vlaming’s would become the new normal.

This kind of sweeping, coercive policy is not the answer to current debates about gender identity. Americans must remain free to discuss these policies in a respectful manner—which is why the firing of Vlaming is so disturbing. Instead of allowing the parties involved to find a workable compromise, the school board not only picked sides, it silenced one side.

This is an extremely disturbing precedent.

Sadly, while Vlaming was willing to work to make the student a cherished member of the community, the school board was not willing to work to make the teacher a cherished member as well.

Instead of pursuing a solution that would respect everyone—teacher and student alike—the school board refused to respect Vlaming’s beliefs and terminated him.

Speaking and acting according to one’s conscience should not be a fireable offense. When authorities try to force people to act against their beliefs, it is a blatant abuse of power—one that can easily backfire when political power changes hands. That is why everyone should be concerned about these emerging challenges to freedom of conscience.



Anonymous said...

Normal people should not be forced to accommodate those with twisted minds ! ! ! !

Stan B said...

Great! We're constantly told that teenagers brains are not completely developed - that they are too young to make certain decisions because they lack competence. However, when they make CERTAIN decisions - decisions with repercussions that follow them their entire lives - well that's fine and dandy! They're too young to vote, too young to drink, too young to buy firearms, but don't you dare impede their ability to choose sex, to choose "gender transitioning," or to choose abortion!

The inmates are now officially running the asylum.

Anonymous said...

Stan; Along those same lines, a 16 yr old girl is too young and immature to consent to sex with her 20 yr old BF. But a girl 16 or younger is mature enough to change her sex??

Anonymous said...


On some level I agree with you. However, I am not sure that I want a school board, school administration or teacher running contrary to the decisions I make for my kids at home.

That's part of what happened in this case. The teacher had met with the parents of the student and discussed how they wanted the child addressed. The principal, the school board and the board's lawyer all presented the teacher with directives and documents saying he needed to call the child by the masculine pronoun.

If I teach my children that there is one God, or that sex before marriage is wrong, or that abortion is wrong, I don't want teachers, administrators, etc contradicting me. I don't want them to insert their judgement in place of mine.

The teacher claims his use of the term "she" instead of "he" was a one off incident. That is disputed.

(The teacher claimed that he would not use a male pronoun in reference to the child, but would call other kids by their gender pronoun. The district's lawyers said that was a violation of Title IX. That doesn't make sense to me.)

So the teacher was fired for insubordination. That is a legal reason to fire someone in every state in the union.

However, there are instances where "insubordination" cannot be used as a reason to terminate someone. They are: the person giving the order is not the employee's supervisor. 2) The order violates the law. 3) The order puts the employee at risk of injury and 4) The order violates the moral or religious beliefs of the employee.

Number four applies here.

This is one of those cases were both parties are in the wrong to some extent. The school board is wrong for forcing their demands on an employee against the employee's moral or religious beliefs. The teacher is wrong because he substituted his judgement for that of the parents (no matter how flawed we think the parents' judgment may be.)

This would have solved in a bigger school by just moving the kid to another language class (the teacher taught French) but in a school with 260+ kids and 21 teachers / administrators, that may not have been possible.

There were likely other accommodations for the teacher and the student that could have been made, but people dug their heels in and now we have this mess.

A lawsuit will surely follow, and the school will have to pay money defending their actions. In the end, the taxpayers and the kids all lose.

Bird of Paradise said...

We don't have schools anymore their now Indocrrination centers for Big Brother

Anonymous said...

The principal can't think of a worse way to treat a child?
They can't think of anything worse than refusing to use a different personal pronoun?
That principal really lacks imagination.

Anonymous said...

My first thought in this case is, What does the student's official record say about "it's" gender/sex? Every form has a checkbox. Whatever that says is what everyone in the school system should be using. But, I would go a bit farther and use only the student's given name as stated on their record. No matter how many times I had to say their name instead of pronouns, I would call them by the legal name given as an identifier on their official records. If they want to be called something different, they need to change their records. I've known plenty of teachers who called students by their full names instead of a nickname and no one lost a job over it.