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Our Educators Are Being Silenced…Will You Speak Up for Them?

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
June 7, 2021

Schools may no longer be in session, but courts still are. And this summer, that’s where several educators will find themselves.

Increasingly, we are seeing public school districts, colleges, and universities sending this message: “Get in line with our preferred ideology or shut up.”

But some teachers are not content to silently sit by as their First Amendment rights are stripped from them…or as policies are implemented that aren’t in the best interest of their students. And Alliance Defending Freedom has the privilege of representing them.

Allow us to introduce these brave clients.

Peter Vlaming, West Point High School, French Teacher

After teaching French at West Point High School in Virginia for nearly seven years, Peter Vlaming was abruptly fired. That year, one of Peter’s students decided to identify as the opposite sex. And while Peter did everything he could to accommodate this student—including using the student’s preferred male name—he could not, in good conscience, use male pronouns to refer to a female student. That wasn’t good enough for the school district, which gave him an ultimatum: Either contradict his beliefs by using male pronouns or be fired. You can probably guess the rest of the story. Today, ADF is representing Peter before the Circuit Court in Gloucester County, Virginia, defending his right to refrain from endorsing an ideology that conflicts with his beliefs.

Tanner Cross, Loudoun County Public Schools, P.E. Teacher

Tanner Cross, an elementary school teacher in Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, respectfully voiced his objections to two proposed school policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting. The policies would force teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address “gender-expansive or transgender students” with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex. Less than 48 hours after speaking at the school board meeting, Tanner was suspended. ADF filed a lawsuit on his behalf to advocate for his First Amendment right to speak freely at a public meeting without fear of punishment.

Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, Shawnee State University, Philosophy Professor

Dr. Nicholas Meriwether has served as a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University for over 20 years with an unblemished record. That all changed when a male student filed a complaint with the university because Dr. Meriwether declined to refer to this student with feminine titles and pronouns. Dr. Meriwether offered a compromise: He would refer to this student by a first or last name only and avoid the use of pronouns. That way, he could respect the student while also respecting his own beliefs. But that wasn’t enough for university officials who charged him with discrimination and creating a “hostile environment” and placed a written warning in his file. ADF is representing Dr. Meriwether in a lawsuit against the university, and thankfully the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit recently ruled that he shouldn’t be forced to speak a message that violates his beliefs.

Educators are just like the rest of us. They have thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. And they don’t have to abandon them simply because they work in a classroom. The First Amendment makes sure of that.

It appears that officials in some of our public education institutions have forgotten this. And they need to be reminded.

That’s where you come in.

These educators have already seen some in their community step up. Students at West Point High School staged a walkout in Peter’s support. Last week, the community rallied around Tanner at the news of his suspension. Dr. Meriwether has had students speak up in his support, even though they disagree with him on a variety of issues.

Even if we disagree, we need to support the right of others to freely express their opinions without fearing government punishment. We are better and stronger as a society when a variety of viewpoints are allowed to flourish.

Including—and perhaps especially—in education.

You can help spread the word about these courageous educators and their stand for freedom by sharing this post on social media.

Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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