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Tanner CrossAlliance Defending Freedom

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RICHMOND, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — An elementary school teacher who was suspended for rejecting transgender ideology was treated unfairly and should be reinstated to his position, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Monday. 

Byron “Tanner” Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School in Virginia’s Loudoun County Public School District (LCPS), was suspended for speaking out against a proposed school policy compelling the use of transgender pronouns. 

As reported by National Catholic Register (NCR), LCPS’ proposed policies would force teachers and administrators to address students “by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex.” 

“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,” Cross said during a May school board meeting.  

“It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.” 

Cross explained that while he shared the board’s concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria, he strongly disagreed with the policies and methods prescribed by the LCPS.  

“I am speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria,” he said. “I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences.”  

Two days after he made the comments, the LCPS board sent Cross a letter saying he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegation that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.” 

On Monday, Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled that the board should not have suspended Cross, affirming a lower court’s finding that “vindictive” school officials had failed to show the teacher had caused a disruption, a determination that led the court to order Cross’ immediate reinstatement. 

Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that represented Cross, welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of his client. 

“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,” said Langhofer, who is also the director of the ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom. 

Affirming Cross’ First Amendment rights against the school board, the Virginia Supreme Court determined that Cross’ “speech and religious content” were “central” to the decision of the board to suspend him, and that he made the comments as a private citizen “on a matter of public concern,” NCR reported. 

In an interview with radio host and frequent Fox News guest Larry O’Connor, Langhofer said the court’s Monday decision “reaffirmed that the school district likely violated Tanner’s rights when they punished him simply for expressing his opinion about this important public policy that was under consideration at the school board.” 

“We can care for and help these children who are struggling with gender dysphoria without doing it through unfounded science, and bad policy, and politically motivated ideology,” he added. 

Langhofer said his client’s successful court case marks a precedent for future action by teachers who refuse to participate in spurious gender ideology. 

“I think we are going to be seeing other teachers, and we are already. Lots of teachers are reaching out to us throughout the country and they’re concerned about these policies because they believe that they’re going to be harmful to their students,” he said. 

Langhofer said the Loudoun County physical education teacher is not alone in his beliefs, adding that “thousands and thousands of teachers across the country are concerned about these types of policies.” 

NCR reported that attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom have now amended their lawsuit to challenge the LCPS’ policy on behalf of several other educators.  

Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright have now joined the lawsuit, which was filed August 20. 

According to the legal complaint, the school board’s policy fails to find a middle ground with teachers and students who fundamentally disagree with the premises “that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa.” 

“They [LCPS] have made this case about far more than titles or pronouns; they have taken a side in a national debate over competing views of human nature and compelled conformity to, and support for, only one view,” the complaint reads. 

Langhofer said the issue comes down to the right of teachers and others to live out their beliefs without fear of reprisals. 

“Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job,” he said. 

According to Langhofer, legal action is warranted because LCPS “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.” 

The Loudoun County School Board has been at the center of a series of national controversies this year as viral videos have shown parents and teachers pushing back against issues like radical transgender policies and critical race theory. 

Earlier this year, two parents were arrested for “trespassing” after the school board preemptively closed a public meeting, denying hundreds of concerned parents the opportunity to oppose critical race theory and transgender bathrooms and calling the police to arrest those who did not immediately leave. 

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