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Virginia Teacher Reinstated After Dispute Over Transgender Students

June 8, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Tanner Cross is a physical education teacher with Loudoun County Public Schools. (Courtesy of the Alliance Defending Freedom)

A judge on Tuesday ordered a Leesburg, Va., elementary teacher reinstated in his job after he was suspended for refusing to address transgender and nonbinary students according to their gender preferences.

Physical education teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross refused to address transgender and nonbinary girls as “she” or transgender boys as “he.”

He opposed the Loudoun County School Board policy that requires following students’ preferred gender classifications on religious grounds. He also called it “abuse of a child” during a public hearing before the school board. 

As a result, the school board suspended Cross. The board told him his conduct disrupted operations at Leesburg Elementary School.

Cross responded with a lawsuit against the school board that says the suspension or any other punishment violates his First Amendment right to free speech. He also asked a judge in Leesburg to lift the suspension until the lawsuit is resolved.

Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman ordered the school board to restore Cross in his job until at least Dec. 31, when the injunction expires.

Plowman said in a letter to school officials Tuesday that Cross was likely to succeed in his lawsuit on First Amendment grounds and that reinstatement was in the “public interest.”

Cross is represented in his lawsuit by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which issued a statement after the judge granted the temporary injunction saying, “School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. That’s neither legal nor constitutional.”

The board acted after complaints about Cross from parents and fellow teachers. 

At the hearing before the school board late last week, Cross said he did not believe biological boys and girls could switch genders.

The school district is reviewing its policy on gender identification to comply with a state order requiring updates. A proposed regulation recommends using the students’ preferred pronouns.

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