RICHMOND, Va. — The Supreme Court of Virginia issued a ruling today reinstating a case brought by a public school teacher seeking the right to mistreat transgender students by refusing to refer to them with the pronouns consistent with their gender identity and sending it back to lower courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia issued the following statement:
“Today’s decision distorts the meaning of the state Constitution to draw a broad circle around transgender students and potentially exempt them from the right that all students have to a safe and inclusive learning environment. Public school officials are still bound by federal law to not discriminate against their students, and today’s ruling remanding the case back to lower courts to apply a heightened state constitutional standard did not change that. Every family has the right to know their child will be treated with the same dignity and respect as every other student, and the plaintiff in this case stood in direct opposition to that fundamental principle.”
In September 2019, Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School, refused to address a transgender boy in his class with he/him pronouns. Instead, the teacher avoided using pronouns when addressing the student, while continuing to use gendered pronouns when addressing everyone else. After several warnings, the school district told the teacher he needed to address the student with male pronouns (the same way he addressed other boys) or he would be fired. The teacher refused; the school district fired him.
Vlaming, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a suit in state court arguing that the school district violated his free speech and free exercise rights under the Virginia Constitution and Virginia’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia filed an amicus brief supporting West Point’s policy and refuting claims made by the plaintiff under the state constitution.