Lawsuit over school's woke speech demands resurrected by state Supremes

 December 14, 2023

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Calling it a "sweeping victory for free speech and religious liberty," the ADF has announced that the Virginia Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit by a former teacher for the West Point School Board charging officials there with violating his rights.

The fight erupted several years ago when the school demanded that the teacher use male pronouns for a female student, and he declined.

The ADF reported its lawyers represent Peter Vlaming, who taught French in the district for nearly seven years.

But he was fired when he explained he could not in good conscience call a girl a boy.

"Vlaming tried to accommodate the student by consistently using the student’s new preferred name and by avoiding the use of pronouns altogether. But school officials ordered him to stop avoiding the use of pronouns to refer to the student, even when the student wasn’t present, and to start using pronouns inconsistent with the student’s sex," the ADF reported.

In essence, the school was ordering the teacher to join their promotion of the transgender ideology and lie.

"Peter wasn’t fired for something he said; he was fired for something he couldn’t say. The Virginia Supreme Court rightly agreed that Peter’s case against the school board for violating his rights under the Virginia Constitution and state law should proceed," said ADF lawyer Chris Schandevel.

"As a teacher, Peter was passionate about the subject he taught, was well-liked by his students, and did his best to accommodate their needs and requests. But he couldn’t in good conscience speak messages that he doesn’t believe to be true, and no school board or government official can punish someone for that reason."

The court ruling found that the state constitution "seeks to protect diversity of thought, diversity of speech, diversity of religion, and diversity of opinion."

And, the court said, "Absent a truly compelling reason for doing so, no government committed to these principles can lawfully coerce its citizens into pledging verbal allegiance to ideological views that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs."

WND reported last year when the state's highest court accepted the case that the issue was that the teacher refused school orders to lie.

Vlaming was fired for "avoiding the use of personal pronouns" regarding one student, and sued after he was dismissed.

When the case erupted, other students organized a protest against the school's decision to dismiss Vlaming.

At the time, Paul Nichols, a friend of Vlaming’s who is superintendent of nearby Mecklenburg County Public Schools, told The Daily Signal that the teacher’s situation is a direct reflection of what is happening in society.

“Not only did he lose his job, but I think the whole thing has put other people in a position where they’re scared that they will lose their job if they don’t toe the line of current popular culture, progressive culture,” Nichols said.

The conflict came up because a 14-year-old girl told Vlaming she was transgender and he was required to use a masculine name and pronouns for her.

What triggered school officials to erupt in outrage was the fact that, during a class exercise in which students were wearing virtual headsets, guided by other students, he accidentally shouted, "Don’t let her hit the wall" when the 14-year-old girl was heading out of bounds for the game.

He was taken off his job by the end of that day.

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