Suspended Loudoun Teacher Sues for Reinstatement

Byron “Tanner” Cross, the Leesburg Elementary School PE teacher who was put on administrative leave after speaking against the School Board’s model policy for transgender students, filed a lawsuit today seeking to be reinstated to his position.

Cross was placed on paid administrative leave on May 27, two days after he cited religious grounds for his objections to model policy 8040, which gained widespread attention.

The policy mandates “LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.”

Virginia state law requires all schools to adopt similar policies by the start of the 2021-2022 school year. 

Cross is a devout Christian and said that he would not affirm a child who identifies as transgender.

“I couldn’t do that because that would be in violation of my faith. To me that would be lying to a child and maybe even harmful to a child,” he said.

Cross is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit known for defending Christian values.

His attorney, Tyson Langhofer, argues the school division is violating Cross’ quintessential First Amendment rights.

ADF has long supported efforts to suppress the gender equality movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center identified ADF as a hate group. Langhofer contends that this lawsuit is entirely about free speech, not the rights of trans people. Still, members of the trans community in Loudoun County were disturbed by Cross’ statements.

School division representatives pointed to the complaints lodged by parents as triggering the suspension.

Cross was placed on administrative leave by interim Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Talent Development Lucia Villa Sebastian, pending an “investigations of allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”

According to an email included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, Stacy Haney, of the Haney Phinyowattanachip law firm representing the school division, wrote to Langhofer that, “the day following Mr. Cross’s comments to the School Board, there was significant disruption at Leesburg Elementary School, including multiple complaints and parents requesting that Mr. Cross have no contact with their children because of his comments.”

Cris Candice Tuck, a transgender parent of two Leesburg Elementary students, said her children were hurt by Cross’ opinions. 

“He loves Mr. Cross, and his first reaction was, ‘what if I had a kid in my class who was trans, how would he treat them?’” Tuck said. “If a child has a firmly held belief, for an adult to tell them they are wrong, that’s wrong that’s harming a child.”

Cross said the school division’s Human Resources officers indicated they wanted to resolve the issue quickly, but he hasn’t heard from anyone from his employer since last week. 

His hope is to return to his job and move forward.

“I would treat all of my students with dignity and respect. Sometimes we have different definitions of what respect is,” Cross said. 

Tuck said members of the trans community are hoping that Cross won’t be fired, and that the incident will open a dialogue about transgender rights.

“Every other student gets to define themselves through a nickname, using a trans child’s name or pronoun is not different. If your faith doesn’t allow you to do that then perhaps public school isn’t the place for you,” Tuck said. 

Tuck also praised the school division for its handling of the matter and for the drafting of policy 8040.

The school division did not provide comment, as is its policy for ongoing legal matters.

22 thoughts on “Suspended Loudoun Teacher Sues for Reinstatement

  • 2021-06-01 at 5:51 pm

    It is a 100% certainty that LCPS will lose this lawsuit. They not only retaliated against him in his job, but they banned him from attending future school board meetings!! This is a result of the utter and complete incompetence of so many admins at LCPS. Director level positions, assistant superintendents and division counsel are all aggressively ignorant regarding constitutional rights. In fact, the lawsuit left out many claims that could have been added.

    It is interesting that ADF decided to sue in Loudoun County Circuit Court as opposed to federal court. These are clearly US Constitution violations but they only referenced Virginia law and filed in state court. Thus, LCPS will be unable to “remove” the case to federal court in Alexandria. The only reason I can think of is to gain greater publicity. In federal court, you have an automatic right to attorney’s fees when you prevail on a constitutional claim. Unless I missed something, both sides usually pay their fees in state court. Virginia’s Constitution grants rights that are “co-extensive” with the US Constitution so they are generally evaluated on the same basis. In any case, everybody is about to get a true civics lesson on constitutional rights in our backyard. ADF just won a SCOTUS case regarding the viability of nomial damages just this year. If LCPS and their attorneys (including outside counsel Julia Judkins) think they are a joke, they are in for a shock.

    Lastly, it is interesting that the person quoted in the story (Tuck) praised LCPS for banning Tanner from SB meetings, all school grounds (including tracks and football games), and suspending him for statements made during a public hearing. If anybody had any question about whether transgender individuals respect the constitutional rights guaranteed to all, wonder no more. They couldn’t care less about you or your rights.

  • 2021-06-01 at 7:04 pm

    You cannot compel speech. There is nothing in the Virginia Constitution that allows the state to force anyone to think or speak in a specific manner. We need to rid ourselves of the school board, several county board members and the Commonwealth Attorney who have been involved in the persecution of their political adversaries using the powers of their offices.

    • 2021-06-02 at 1:10 am

      Funny. Try calling a judge an a^^hole and see how that works out for you.
      The Alliance Defending Freedom is a well known hate group. And there’s a good chance that they were in touch with this teacher before the incident.

      • 2021-06-02 at 1:47 pm

        That’s an interesting conspiracy theory but no one suggested committing an act of contempt in front of a court. What we are talking about is elected public servants using their offices to persecute someone who has the temerity to disagree with them in public. It’s obvious where you stand on the issue of the 1st amendment though. I wonder which school board member you are in real life.

  • 2021-06-01 at 9:02 pm

    Ha! I just commented yesterday that lawyers were probably salivating to get their hands on this case. Go Tanner! I hope you get everything you are suing for and more. This school board needs to be taught an expensive and humiliating lesson.
    Banning Mr. Cross from all LCPS facilities was a ridiculous overreach from a school board that thinks it is beyond reproach and a supreme ruler of LoCo. I wish Atty. Langhofer a quick and decisive victory. Let’s let sanity prevail!

  • 2021-06-01 at 9:57 pm

    I am so happy my kids got a great education in LCPS (1st through H.s.) and graduated years ago so they and their parents did not have to see what a disgrace and laughing stock Loudoun has become. LoCo has gone Woke-o.

  • 2021-06-02 at 8:05 am

    This situation is a collision of the (D)s radical social agenda, their push for public unionization, established case law, their purported love of “free” speech (as long as it fits within their agenda), and their hatred of Constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedom.

    And it’s all of their own making. If not for the man’s career hanging in the balance, this would be truly popcorn-worthy.

  • 2021-06-02 at 8:32 am

    This pronoun business is a load of nonsense. These children all have names so the policy needs to be address the children by their names. Go to the DMV and try to get a Driver’s License by putting “him” or “her” on the application and see how far you get.
    If you don’t like the name you have, then legally change it so the teacher can address you with the appropriate name. People are people, they are not pronouns. I don’t have children in the LCPS so while I don’t have a direct dog in the fight, I have a challenge letting my tax dollars pay for policies that pander to the cause of the month. Pretty soon this school board will give each child a unique number and that’s how they’ll be addressed. Wait, that might work. If little James Smith is given the Number 123456 when he enters first grade, then it doesn’t matter how he identifies himself. Oops, giving the children a number for identification purposes, why they might as well be in the county lockup then.

  • 2021-06-02 at 9:48 am

    He deserves to be disciplined for publicly refusing to implement the policy of his employer. That’s just basic and applies to most any job where you have a boss. That he goes public and political with his religious beliefs is his business and his right…but he should be prepared for the consequences. He can always get a new job if this one conflicts with his beliefs.

    • 2021-06-02 at 10:23 am

      Somebody needs to take a Constitution 101 class.

      • 2021-06-02 at 12:41 pm

        Constitution has nothing to do with this case. Try Title VII .. though you probably don’t get to that in your 101 class, herr professor.

        • 2021-06-02 at 2:04 pm

          “stop”, read my letter to editor. He filed a 1st And retaliation case. Title VII comes later.

          Let me know when you have actually read a single judicial legal opinion or stepped foot in court.

    • 2021-06-02 at 11:31 am

      I would submit that since his employer is not a private entity but a taxpayer funded one, then the situation is a bit different one. If your name is on the masthead, you are writing all of the checks and taking all of the risks, then you can dictate policy as you see fit as long as you are inside the Department of Labor guidelines. When it comes to taxpayer funded organizations, your Constitutional rights don’t stop at the schoolhouse door. The LCPS is simply creating a policy to pander to the cause of the month. Where does it stop? I need my support alligator to get me through the day so I’ll ask the LCPS to allow me to bring my alligator to school. Human beings are not pronouns so this pronoun business is a just noise. Those children have names. The policy should be you address children by their name. Now, if the child wants a name change because of their transgender situation, then do like people do when they. get married. Go to the county court and submit a petition for a name change and once it’s approved, then start calling the child by the new name. This whole pronoun business is definitely the tyranny of the few for sure. Go to the DMV and try to get a DL by putting “him” or “her” on the application. Children have legal names. Show them respect by addressing them by their legal names. Thank goodness mine are out of college and I am not having to visit the School Board on a regular basis and provide them with classes on the Constitution.

  • 2021-06-02 at 12:59 pm

    Praise God and His Son Jesus the Messiah, the Lord of Loudoun, for His faithful servant Tanner Cross!
    Jesus said you (disciples of Christ) are the salt of the earth. Tanner Cross melted and preserved LC from further steep descent into woke cancel abyss.

    Jesus also asked, what does it profit a man (person) if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26 Biblehub) Gem teachers, jewels of LCPS (students and parents know who you are), stand up and follow the bold leader!

    Dare your “superiors” to put you on administrative leaves, thus forfeiting your talented pedagogic skills
    –and risk watching LCPS devolve into an entropic mess of critical regressive theatrics.

    Mr. Tanner Cross and all who join him, you are welcome to come to my house for mesquite BBQ anytime!! 🙂

    • 2021-06-02 at 8:09 pm

      You don’t seem to understand Christianity or the teachings of Jesus very well. Unless this was clumsy satire?

  • 2021-06-02 at 8:00 pm

    If religion is the basis for one’s gender model (as Mr Cross clearly articulated) how can parents and students with different religious beliefs (and different views on gender) attend a school where staff have vowed to not respect differing religious viewpoints on gender and instead proselytize/force their religious viewpoint? The only equitable solution is to have an educational setting where staff tolerate all of society’s gender beliefs.

  • 2021-06-02 at 8:30 pm

    As a teacher, Mr. Cross is a public employee, paid by the taxpayers. He is essentially an agent of the State. There is a good reason we have separation of church and state. He needs to follow official policy and refer to these students by their names or preferred pronouns. How is that harming him in any way? It’s not. Perhaps he should find a job more suited to his religious and political beliefs. I ask: What action can he take that engenders the most love?

  • 2021-06-03 at 2:11 pm

    Byron Cross wants to force his religious beliefs on children who probably have differing beliefs than he has. His tactics show he is not a believer in Freedom of Religion, as he is going to force his beliefs onto someone else. That is just plain wrong. I hope in court they bring in Wiccans, and Buddhists, and many other religious beliefs to show that Byron is just a religious extremist intent on forcing everyone to abide by his beliefs.

    Loudoun County and Leesburg has a long history of Christian and White male Supremist rules in its schools. Any attempt to actually follow the American Constitution and allow freedom of religion are met with full frontal attacks, as these extremists don’t want to give up any of their extremist privileges. There is too much religious indoctrination and fake pseudoscience already pushed in Loudoun County schools. They ignore real science and the real down and dirty of real life and genetic mush of real life.

    Their religious, racial, and gender bigotry is so severe that I applaud the efforts of the Board of Education for fighting this extremist right wing religious attacks on the US Constitution and the regular people of Loudoun County. Loudoun County, Stand up to the religious zealots trying to control your lives. Fight for religious freedom.

    • 2021-06-03 at 8:06 pm

      DeeInCa (Dee in California?- figures): So you do not want Mr. Cross to “force” his religious beliefs on the kids, but you want their parents to force their beliefs about gender pronouns on him? As my friends who are democrats say “But it’s science”- and science tells us there are only two genders, so please, follow the science and stop forcing these nonsensical beliefs on people.
      Sicko parents have forced kids who can’t decide what crayons to use to just go ahead and pick a gender, any gender, like they’re playing “go fish”. Kids go through phases- little girls go through tomboy phases and little boys sometimes get curious about their mom’s clothes and makeup- this does NOT mean they have decided on changing genders- it means they are little kids who are still learning. These crazy parents are so intent on forcing their own craziness on their kids so they will be “accepted” that they have confused and twisted them up so badly that they will be messed up for life. Let the kids decide what they want to be when they’re adults.

    • 2021-06-04 at 9:25 am

      Riddle me this…

      If this action by the SB and LCPS Admin is simply a job-related decision, WHY DID THEY BAN HIM FROM MEETINGS AND ALL SCHOOL (Public) PROPERTY?

      I find it interesting that you managed to cram every single “boogeyman” into your post. Most have NOTHING to do with this employment/freedom/legal situation.

  • 2021-06-04 at 3:47 am

    Republicans have Tanner Cross as our standard bearer.
    Democrats have George Floyd.

  • 2021-06-04 at 10:25 am

    I wonder if Tanner Cross ever lied to children about the existence of Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, or other imaginary beings. Isn’t that the argument he’s making? Can’t lie, no matter what?

    One person’s closely held belief if another person’s convenient fable. The least we owe each other is to be civil in our discourse. Using the name or pronoun someone wishes you to use for them seems like the least someone could do.

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