The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a Circuit Court judge’s decision to reinstate Byron “Tanner” Cross to his teaching position, from which he was placed on administrative leave after speaking out against protections for transgender students.
Cross was placed on paid administrative leave after his public comment during the May 25 School Board meeting drew objections from parents of Leesburg Elementary School, where Cross is a P.E. teacher. Policy 8040 protects the rights of transgender and gender expansive students, and was adopted by the School Board on Aug. 11.
“I love all my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences,” Cross told the School Board. “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 is against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it is sinning against our God.”
Cross, represented by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, sued for his reinstatement. Judge James E. Plowman granted Cross an emergency injunction to return to his teaching position, arguing that Cross was exercising his right to free speech. In the appeal, the district argued that Plowman’s ruling overlooked schools’ responsibilities to provide safe environments for students.
In a 14-page ruling, a three justice panel of the Supreme Court found that the school district did not provide evidence that “parents and students would avoid interacting with Cross to the point he could not fulfill his duties.” The ruling also states that LCPS did not “specify how Cross’ continuing to teach at Leesburg Elementary might pose a real and present threat that he or the Loudoun County Public Schools will contravene any anti-discrimination policy or law.”
“The lower court’s decision was a well-reasoned application of the facts to clearly established law, as the Virginia Supreme Court found,” Tyson Langhofer, Cross’ attorney, stated.
Cross was recently joined by two other Loudoun teachers opposed to Policy 8040, and ADF filed a motion for an emergency injunction, so that teachers would not be required to enforce the policy.
Controversy surrounding Policy 8040 drew national media attention to Loudoun County. Virginia state law requires that all school districts adopt such protections for transgender students by the start of the 2021-2022 school year, or accept liability for any incidents involving harassment or abuse of transgender students.
A two-day trial for the Circuit Court case is scheduled to start Sept. 7.