In the News

“Virginia School District Leaders Ask Court to Uphold Teacher Firing in Transgender Student Case”

Virginia Mercury

July 29, 2022

School board members from five Virginia localities and Richmond’s schools superintendent have signed onto an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of Virginia opposing a former teacher’s claim that he was unlawfully fired for violating his district’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

The brief, which was submitted by LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Virginia and more than 35 signatories, asks the Supreme Court of Virginia to uphold the King William Circuit Court’s dismissal of former teacher Peter Vlaming’s lawsuit against the West Point School Board.

School board members who joined the brief include those from Arlington, Fairfax and Stafford counties, and the cities of Charlottesville and Falls Church.

“Without clear protections, such as the commonwealth’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students in Virginia’s public schools and West Point’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, transgender children risk mental, emotional, physical, and sexual harm when they attend school,” the brief states. “Without these protections, transgender students suffer isolation and stigma when they are differentiated from their peers.”

. . .

Last July, Equality Virginia and law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed a separate brief in support of Virginia’s model policies to make schools safer and more inclusive for transgender students.

The two said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the West Point School Board must treat its transgender students equally, including by ensuring that staff address transgender students with the names and pronouns that reflect their gender identity.

. . .

“The harm of differentiating transgender students from their peers and failing to affirm their identities is well-established in the courts,” said S. Douglas Bunch, an attorney with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, in a statement.

“Sadly, this effect is magnified when the hostile actor is a teacher,” he said. “School policies, such as one of using pronouns that reflect a transgender student’s identity, are there to mitigate these harms and allow all students to thrive in school.”

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