On Tuesday, a judge ordered the Loudoun County, Va., school district to reinstate a physical education teacher who dared to speak out against a policy that would require teachers to endorse transgender identity by using female pronouns to refer to male students and vice versa. Roughly 24 hours later, the district suspended the teacher and barred him from setting foot on school property. The judge ruled that this suspension likely violated the teacher’s First Amendment right to free speech.
“The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the Defendants to suspend Plaintiff’s employment. The Court further finds that the weight of the evidence and the totality of the circumstances, clearly show that the four prongs for issuance of a temporary injunction have been satisfied,” Judge James E. Plowman, Jr. of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Virginia, wrote in his order.
Plowman granted Byron [Tanner] Cross, the PE teacher, the temporary injunction he sought. Under the terms of the injunction, the school district “shall immediately reinstate [Cross] 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.” The injunction will remain until December 31, 2021.
“Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy. For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues,” Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing the teacher, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs,” Farris added. “School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. 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,” the ADF president concluded.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) suspended Cross less than 48 hours after he dared to speak out against LCPS Policy 8040 and the proposed changes to LCPS Policy 8350, which would require teachers to refer to students by preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns that correspond to a student’s biological sex as male or female.
“My name is Tanner Cross, and I am speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria,” Cross, the PE teacher at Leesburg Elementary, said during the public comment segment of the school board meeting. “Sixty Minutes this past Sunday interviewed over 30 young people who transitioned but they felt led astray because lack of pushback or how easy it was to make physical changes to their bodies in just three months. They are now detransitioning.”
Cross referenced the 60 Minutes segment on detransitioners in order to highlight the danger of transgender ideology. In pursuit of false gender identities, men and women have permanently mutilated their bodies, only to later reject the transgender identity.
“It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready,” Cross insisted. “We condemn school policies like 8040 and 8350 because it would damage children, defile the holy image of God. I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them, regardless of the consequences.”
“I’m a teacher but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God,” Cross concluded.
Loudoun County School Board just put a school teacher on administrative leave for stating he would not teach LGBTQ because it violates his Christian principles. pic.twitter.com/QCwzIYdNNw
— Michael S. Miller (@imichaelsmiller) May 27, 2021
LCPS claimed Cross’s remarks had been “disruptive,” but Judge Plowman noted that the school had received only five emails from parents complaining about Cross’s remarks before the district suspended him. The school has at least 391 students, so “the Court views the magnitude of parental complaints to be de minimis given the size of the Leesburg Elementary School community.” Therefore the complaints “could not reasonably be construed as so disruptive to school operations to justify the decision taken by [LCPS].”
Since Cross spoke out on a matter of public concern, in his own private capacity outside of his duties at work, Plowman ruled that LCPS’s “retaliatory action adversely affected [Cross’s] constitutionally protected speech.” The judge ruled that Cross is likely to succeed on the merits of his case, that failure to issue the order would cause Cross “irreparable harm,” that Cross posed no serious threat to justify the suspension, and that granting him relief from the suspension is in the public interest.
It is heartening to see Cross restored to work after LCPS egregiously violated his rights. While school districts across the country may seek to enforce transgender ideology, this ruling sends a clear message that school districts cannot retaliate against employees who voice their disagreement with transgenderism.
Cross’s legal battle is far from over, but at least LCPS cannot bar him from school property for the duration of this case.