Court: Reinstate Virginia Teacher Suspended Over Transgender Pronoun Policy

Marco Green
June 10, 2021

In a tweet following the court ruling, ADF called the news "massive victory for free speech". He opposed a proposed policy that would let transgender and "gender-expansive" students use names and pronouns "that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student's permanent educational record".

Cross said that because of his Christian faith, he could not recognize "a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa".

Cross is only the latest educator caught up in the controversy surrounding preferred pronoun rules in schools.

He continued: "LCPS should not require me to violate my conscience and lie to my students".

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cross, saying that the district engaged in "viewpoint-based retaliation" in suspending him.

Cross's attorney argued it was his client's right under the First Amendment of the Constitution to express his views at the public meeting. Cross was "speaking as a citizen" on a matter "that can only be described as a 'matter of public concern'". The defendant has also alleged that Cross disrupted and adversely affected the school's environment.

Elementary school teacher Byron "Tanner" Cross was suspended May 27 after briefly speaking against a proposal to require teachers in the Northern Virginia public school system to address students by their preferred pronouns, rather than only by those indicating male or female gender.

Cross said at a rally on Friday (4 June) that he was "thinking about my values, my students, my parents and my fellow teachers" when he spoke out against the trans-inclusive policies.

Cross is thrilled with the result, saying: "We're so happy".

ADF President and CEO Michael Farris said that "Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy".

Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman explained in his decision: "Defendants shall immediately reinstate the Plaintiff to his position as it was prior to the issuance of his suspension and remove the ban that was placed upon him from all buildings and grounds of Loudoun County Public Schools. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs". This lawsuit was over whether public school could punish teachers for objecting to proposed policies as a private citizen in "a forum designed for the goal of considering whether to implement such policies, where the policy would force him to express ideas about human nature, unrelated to the school's curriculum, that he believes are false", said his complaint. That's neither legal nor constitutional. "Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect", he said. "The content of such policies are the decision of the legislative branches of government and are not now before the Court for review".

In a statement, school board chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) praised Ziegler for his leadership over the past six months. In other words, the school board's negative response toward Cross dissuades others from speaking up.

Cross was prohibited from entering the property of Loudon County Public Schools for any event unless permitted to do so.

Plaintiff points out that this language went beyond an ordinary employment suspension and additionally restricted his ability to have future public dialog [ue] with the School Board at public comment sessions.

The court granted Cross a temporary injunction against the school's action and required the school to reinstate him and allow him access to school property.

Cross is vindicated for now, but the case awaits trial in the coming weeks.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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