LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA – According to reports, a Virginia elementary school teacher who was suspended after he delivered a controversial speech denouncing a proposed policy regarding student gender identity has been ordered to be reinstated to his job by a judge.
Byron “Tanner” Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, had filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) after they had placed him on leave following a speech he gave at a school board meeting in May.
At the meeting, Cross had made public comments – streamed on video due to the pandemic – where he stated that he would refuse to comply with a proposed new school district policy that would compel staff to use the preferred pronouns of transgendered students, citing his religious beliefs.
“My name is Tanner Cross and I am speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria,” he told the board. “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.”
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“I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences,” Cross continued. “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.”
The proposed rule Cross referred to, currently known as draft policy 8040, reads as follows:
“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, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record,” it says. “School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent/legal guardian, when using a name or pronoun to address the student, use the name and pronoun that correspond to their gender identity.”
Days after his speech, Cross received a letter from LCPS, informing him that he was being placed on leave while school officials investigated “allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations” of his school. Cross went on to file a lawsuit against LCPS, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman issued a temporary injunction on Tuesday, ordering LCPS to reinstate Cross immediately. The injunction expires on December 31, at which time a new one would need to be issued if the case has not yet been settled or gone to trial, or Cross would face suspension once again.
Judge Plowman noted that Cross stands a good chance of winning if the case goes to trial, stating that the school district had indeed infringed upon his right to free speech.