A Virginia school district has pledged to appeal a judge’s order this week reinstating a gym teacher who was initially suspended for speaking out against a new policy requiring that district faculty and staff address students by their preferred pronouns.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) said in a statement Friday that it “respectfully disagrees with the Circuit Court’s decision to issue the injunction” reinstating Tanner Cross, who works at Leesburg Elementary School.
The school district said it planned to bring the matter to the Virginia Supreme Court.
LCPS added that “Leesburg Elementary School and Loudoun County Public Schools experienced – and continue to experience – significant disruption,” since the school board meeting in late May in which Cross said he would not be able to follow the policy, explaining, “I’m a teacher, but I serve God first.”
“I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion,” he argued at the time, according to local news outlet WTOP. “It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”
Cross was suspended less than 48 hours after the school board meeting, though Circuit Court Judge Jim Plowman Jr. following a three-hour hearing said Tuesday that Cross should have his position reinstated, citing the teacher’s right to free speech and freedom of religion.
However, LCPS said in its Friday statement that students and parents of the elementary school “have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school.”
“Addressing those concerns is paramount to the school division’s goal to provide a safe, welcoming, and affirming learning environment for all students,” the district added. “While LCPS respects the rights of public-school employees to free speech and free exercise of religion, those rights do not outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment.”
Tyson Langhofer of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit conservative legal organization representing Cross, said in a statement Friday that the judge’s decision this week “was a well-reasoned application of these facts to clearly-established law.”
“We are confident that, if the Virginia Supreme Court hears the appeal, it will affirm the circuit court’s decision,” he added, according to WTOP.
The court’s temporary injunction temporarily reinstating Cross is set to remain in effect until Dec. 31.