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Virginia gym teacher fights suspension over refusal to ‘lie’ to children using ‘abusive’ preferred pronouns

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A gym teacher suspended from a Northern Virginia public school district over his refusal to utilize what he called “abusive” transgender-preferred pronouns to address students is fighting back and defending his stance as premised on his Christian faith.

Tanner Cross was placed on leave by Leesburg Elementary officials following comments he made to the Loudoun County school board on May 25 that he wouldn’t follow rules requiring teachers to utilize a student’s preferred pronouns, Fox News reported.

“My name is Tanner Cross and I am speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria,” Cross began, referencing a “60 Minutes” episode that aired a week ago regarding the issue.

“It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready. We condemn school policies [that] would damage children, defile the holy image of God,” he added.

“I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. 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. It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God,” he continued.

Within two days, however, Principal Shawn Lacey notified parents via email that Cross had been suspended.

But the gym instructor has retained a Christian conservative legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, which has sent a letter to the school district demanding that he be reinstated.

“Immediately suspending an employee and launching an investigation for engaging in First Amendment-protected expression, creates an atmosphere of fear and is intended to send a message to Mr. Cross and other teachers that they must toe the line or face the consequences…,” the legal organization’s letter states. “The First Amendment does not countenance such retaliation. We demand that you immediately (1) rescind the suspension, (2) reinstate Mr. Cross so that he can return to class on Tuesday, June 1, (3) remove the suspension letter from his file, and (4) refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech.”

“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, but it’s beyond the pale to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting, which is what such meetings are designed for,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the group’s Center for Academic Freedom, said in a statement.

“This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology. The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well. That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave,” Langhofer added.

School district officials are reportedly currently conducting a review of their policies following a state-issued mandate that all school systems update language to accommodate transgender students, according to the Associated Press. State guidelines recommend teachers and school personnel address such students by their chosen pronoun.

Last year, the Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan School District was the target of a lawsuit filed by concerned parents over the district allowing students to use preferred pronouns and names. Though students are required by law to get parents’ permission in order to have names and pronouns changed on legal documents, the school district permitted students to pick and use their preferred pronouns without parental permission during regular school hours.

Parents claimed in their lawsuit that the school district was violating their constitutional right to raise their children as they saw fit.

Jon Dougherty

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