The legal team representing Byron “Tanner” Cross, the teacher placed on leave after criticizing the Loudoun County Public Schools’ transgender protections, is asking the Circuit Court to add two more teachers to the lawsuit and to halt the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed the request on Monday to add Monica Gill, a history teacher at Loudoun County High School, and Kim Wright, a Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher, to the suit. The request to change the suit will need to be approved by a Circuit Court judge.
The controversial Policy 8040, which was adopted by the embattled School Board last week, complies with a Virginia mandate that school divisions enact protections for transgender and gender expansive students by the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Under the policy, students are entitled to be called by their chosen name and pronouns, and to use facilities that correspond with their gender identities. The policy, as well as other initiatives to protect marginalized students, have been viewed by some parents in Loudoun as divisive, and have spurred on a recall effort against six members of the School Board.
Gill has been vocal about her opposition to the district’s equity work. She has appeared on Fox News to discuss the influence of Critical Race Theory on teacher trainings, and spoke during the “Education not Indoctrination” rally in Leesburg on June 12.
Cross was placed on administrative leave after he told the School Board during its May 25 meeting that he would not affirm transgender students with their chosen pronouns because it would be against his religion.
“It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it is sinning against our God,” Cross said.
The School Board, after receiving a flurry of complaints from parents of Cross’ students at Leesburg Elementary School following his remarks, placed Cross on paid administrative leave on May 27. Cross and ADF sued for his reinstatement, and Judge James E. Plowman granted an emergency injunction to reinstate Cross to his position. The division appealed the decision, arguing that it overlooked schools’ responsibilities to protect students. The appeal will now be heard in Virginia Supreme Court.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said. “Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job. Freedom—of speech and religious exercise-—includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs.
Langhofer said that the teachers would use whatever name a student wishes to be called, but not the pronoun that does not correspond with their biological sex.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, ahead of the vote on the policy, the School Board fielded a swarth of public comments from parents both in support of, and against, the transgender protections.
The public comment portion of the meeting lasted hours, and the board ultimately voted to delay the vote until Wednesday. Prior to the vote, School Board members weighed in on the Policy. Only Jeff Morse (Dulles) was highly critical of the policy.
Morse said that he felt ill at ease with several stipulations in the policy. He delivered a lengthy speech, arguing that such policies don’t exist to protect all marginalized groups, and passing Policy 8040 would necessitate passing similar protections for other groups. He pointed to Policy 1040, which already provides students with an equal opportunity for a safe, inclusive learning environment.
“Teachers are not monsters who pick on at-risk kids, and they don’t need to be told to love their students. They already do,” Morse said.
Morse’s comments sparked an impassioned response from Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge), “I hope this is not the case, but it sounds as if you think bullying of LGBTQ students in LCPS is a thing of the past and it doesn’t happen today, and if you believe that, I would encourage you to speak to more gay and transgender students, because I don’t know how you could say that with a straight face,” Serotkin said.
The meeting featured two student representatives to the School Board. Jamie Kaine, a Heritage High School senior, shared her support of the policy.
“I have been able to use the girls’ bathrooms and the girls’ restrooms freely, and I would feel no fear and no intimidation from transgender women being in the same bathroom, as well, because transgender women are women,” Kaine said. “These are not people that are coming into the bathroom to look at us or creep on us, that is not the goal of this movement and I think that often gets confused and I understand the fear but that’s not realistic.”
Other teachers have criticized the policy. Laura Morris, a Lucketts Elementary School Teachers, gave her resignation to the School Board during her public comment.
“This summer I have struggled with the idea of returning to school, knowing that I’ll be working yet again with a school division that, despite its shiny tech and flashy salary, promotes political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ.”
A hearing for the case is set for Sept. 7 in the Loudoun County District Court.