Judge rules teacher placed on leave after refusing to use trans students’ pronouns must be reinstated

Steven Hall, DCNF

A Virginia judge ruled Tuesday that a public school teacher must be reinstated after he was placed on administrative leave for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns, according to court documents.

Tanner Cross, a physical education instructor at Leesburg Elementary School in Loudoun County, Virginia, was suspended after he said at a late-May school board meeting that he would never “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa.” District Court Judge James E. Plowman Jr. ruled that the suspension of Cross was “an unconstitutional action … which has silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue.”

School officials circulated a draft proposal that required teachers to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns. Cross said his unbending position to always tell the truth, along with his Christian faith meant he could not use a transgender child’s selected pronoun.

Cross was put on paid administrative leave on May 27, which banned him from entering the school or speaking at school board meetings, according to the ruling.

Cross sued the school system’s top administrators and requested a preliminary injunction forcing his reinstatement on June 1. He alleged that the school violated his freedom of speech, according to the ruling.

The judge also disputed a claim that Cross’s speech caused “disruption to school operations.” He wrote the school’s decision seemed “an unnecessary and vindictive act given the end of the school year was so close.”

Loudoun County Public Schools can petition for a review of the ruling within 15 days of its issuance.

Glenn Youngkin, a Republican nominee in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, tweeted out his support for Cross. “As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” Youngkin said.

Wayde Byard, Loudoun County schools spokesman, told The Washington Post that the district “will have no comment” on the ruling.

Cross “does not believe that every student or teacher in [Loudoun County] should have to accept his view,” according to the suit. “But he also believes that teachers should not be compelled to say things that they do not believe to be true.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an American conservative Christian nonprofit advocacy group, filed the lawsuit on Cross’ behalf.

“Everyone’s rights come under threat if a school board can strip teachers like Tanner of their fundamental rights as American citizens and get away with it,” said ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer at a rally last Friday. “To preserve a free society for ourselves and our children, we must stand up for Tanner and all citizens who have the courage to express their views.”

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