For the second time since June, a Virginia public elementary school teacher who was suspended for objecting to the school district’s proposed transgender policy has been vindicated in court. The Virginia Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court injunction requiring the Loudoun County School District to reinstate Byron “Tanner” Cross to his position as a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School.
Cross, as we’ve previously reported, is a Christian. He attended the district’s board meeting on May 25 to voice his objections to a proposed policy being considered that would require all district staff to use a student’s chosen name and preferred gender pronoun regardless of the name or gender recorded on the student’s permanent educational record. As a Christian, Cross told the board, he didn’t feel that it was right or truthful to lie to his students who are created by God with a specific biological sex.
A couple days thereafter, the district retaliated by suspending Cross with pay and took the extra step of banning him from campus, telling him it was “investigating” him for causing a “disruption.” At that point, only one set of parents had complained to his school about the position Cross had expressed at the board meeting.
Cross promptly took the school district to court, with the help of attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and was successful in obtaining an injunction from a state judge requiring the district to reinstate him. The district appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling of the lower court.
“Although the Board may have considered Cross’ speech to be ‘a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse of a privilege,’ we believe Cross has a strong claim to the view that his public dissent implicates ‘fundamental societal values’ deeply embedded in our Constitutional Republic,” a three-justice panel wrote.
Cross’s attorneys applauded this recent victory.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, nor should they be silenced for commenting at a public meeting,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said in a press release. “The lower court’s decision was a well-reasoned application of the facts to clearly established law, as the Virginia Supreme Court found.”
Even though Cross is celebrating, he and other teachers remain in jeopardy because the school district eventually adopted the transgender policy Cross objected to. Langhofer explained why the lawsuit must proceed.
“[B]ecause Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment, we have moved to amend our lawsuit to challenge that policy on behalf of multiple faculty members,” he said. “Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job.”
We will keep you apprised of developments in this case as it proceeds.
The lawsuit is Byron Tanner Cross v. Loudoun County School Board.
Photo from Shutterstock.