Leesburg, VA – A judge reinstated a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended after he spoke out against using students’ transgender pronouns at a school board meeting and called the school’s behavior “vindictive.”
Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, spoke out at a Loudoun County school board meeting on May 25 and said he opposed a proposal by county officials that would force teachers to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns and names, The Washington Post reported.
Cross said he would never “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa” because of his Christian faith and belief in telling the truth.
“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Cross told the school board, according to WTOP. “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 was placed on paid administrative leave just two days later and banned from setting foot on Loudoun County school grounds or speaking at school board meetings, The Washington Post reported.
He filed a lawsuit against the top administrators of the Loudoun County school system on June 1.
The lawsuit accused school officials of violating Cross’s rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion, The Washington Post reported.
Cross “does not believe that every student or teacher in [Loudoun County] should have to accept his view,” according to the lawsuit. “But he also believes that teachers should not be compelled to say things that they do not believe to be true.”
The complaint asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction that forced the school to reinstate him, let him back on campus, and permit him to participate in school board meetings.
“When LCPS suspended Tanner they crossed a line, and that’s why we took them to court,” Tyson Langhofer, an attorney for Cross, told WRC.
On Friday, 20th Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr. heard arguments during a three-hour hearing.
Attorneys for Cross argued that it was his client’s right under the First Amendment of the Constitution to express his personal views at a public meeting, WRC reported.
The school district’s attorneys argued that the school’s principal had to remove Cross from one of his jobs the next day because five parents had complained in 48 hours.
Cross spoke to supporters at a rally after the hearing, WRC reported.
“Last Tuesday, I went to school board meeting and respectfully objected to two proposed policies,” Cross said. “When I spoke, I was thinking about my values, my students, my parents and my fellow teachers. The truth is I’m not alone. Many of us are concerned that proposed policies would harm students and require us to violate our beliefs by saying things that are not true.”
On June 8, two weeks after Cross was suspended, the judge ordered that he should be “immediately” reinstated, The Washington Post reported.
Plowman also ordered the school district to rescind the ban against Cross being on campus while the lawsuit commenced.
The judge critiqued Loudoun County’s case and disputed its assertion that Cross’s remarks to the school board had caused a “disruption to school operations,” The Washington Post reported.
Plowman called the school’s decision to suspend Cross “an unnecessary and vindictive act given the end of the school year was so close.”