On June 1, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against Virginia's Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) for suspending teacher Byron Tanner Cross, who had expressed his concern at a public school board meeting that a transgender policy under consideration violated his beliefs and was harmful to children.
The policy in question, Policy 8040 or “Rights of Transgender Students and Gender-Expansive Students,” would require LCPS teachers to address students by their preferred names and pronouns regardless of official identity records.
It would also allow transgender students to participate in school sports and activities in accordance to their gender identity – not their biological sex -- and give them permission to use the facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, that correspond with their gender identity.
“All instructional staff will annually acknowledge review of this policy and have access to resources related to the safety and support pf LGBTQ+ students,” the policy states.
“I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it is against my religion,” Cross stated during the public comments portion of the school board meeting on May 25. “It’s lying to a child. It’s abuse to a child. And it’s sinning against our God.”
Tanner Cross is a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School in Loudoun Couty, Va.
Following Cross’ comments, there was a “significant disruption” at the school, “including multiple complaints and parents requesting that Mr. Cross have no interaction with their children because of his comments,” according to a LCPS representative. This compelled the school board to place Cross on administrative leave with pay.
The physical education elementary school teacher is pressing charges against LCPS for suspending Cross’ right to free speech and free exercise of his beliefs.
On administrative leave, Cross is unable to attend and engage in school board meetings and, therefore, cannot offer any further thoughts on the adoption of Policy 8040 before the board.
“This case is not about how schools should treat students who struggle with gender dysphoria,” the ADF stated in the official complaint. “It is about whether public schools can punish a teacher for objecting, as a private citizen, to a proposed policy, in a forum designated for the purpose 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.”
Following the three-hour hearing on Friday, Fight for Schools and ADF held a rally for Cross at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA where a crowd gathered to show their support.
“I’m outraged, I’m furious that a teacher who loves his job and his students is not teaching,” parent Beverly McCauley said at the rally.
Michael Farris, the president and CEO of ADF, also spoke and condemned the LCPS school board for removing Cross from his classroom on account of five parental complaints. “Heckler's vetoes are not the way you run a school district,” he said, and parents do not determine when someone’s constitutional rights are going to be violated.
Cross also addressed the crowd and relayed his shock and disappointment in the LCPS for suspending him from his job for sharing his views.
“When the school suspended me, they were sending a message to me and other teachers: ‘We will punish teachers who speak out,’” Cross said.
“Tanner’s case is about the right of every American to speak freely without the fear of punishment,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with ADF said at the rally. “Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express beliefs that they don’t hold.”
Although the court has yet to release a verdict, Langhofer told CNSNews that he believes the judge conducted a fair hearing, and he is hopeful for a ruling in their favor.