Court Battles

School board settles with Virginia teacher who opposed transgender rules

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The Loudoun County school system agreed to reinstate a teacher who sued the school board for a policy requiring staff to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Tanner Cross, a Leesburg Elementary gym teacher who was suspended after his objections to the new policy, will also collect $20,000 in compensation for legal fees from Loudoun County and have the suspension removed from his record.

The Washington Post reported on the settlement on Monday.

Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at the Alliance for Defending Freedom, an organization representing Cross in court, said “essentially we obtained all the relief that Tanner was requesting.”

“The Virginia constitution is very clear that the government cannot punish teachers for expressing their views on topics of public concern. And it’s very clear also the government cannot compel people to speak messages they disagree with,” Langhofer told The Hill.

Cross objected to the policy at a school board meeting last spring and was put on administrative leave within 48 hours of his protest to the new pronoun rule, which school officials introduced to create more equity for transgender students.

Cross said the rule went against his religious beliefs, and that since he was fired for raising concerns, also alleged that the school violated his first amendment rights.

Cross sued in June and won the right to be reinstated by a local court. The decision was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court, which ordered his reinstatement on Nov. 15.

Loudoun4All, a group working to create more equity for transgender students in the Virginia county, said in a statement to The Hill they hope Cross will respect his students.

Parents of transgender students expect and deserve their children to be recognized and provided a safe place to learn and grow, regardless of a teacher’s beliefs,” the organization wrote. “We hope that Mr. Cross will continue to provide a safe environment to all our students, including all that identify in any protected class.”

ADF, along with Cross and two other Loudoun County teachers, are continuing with their lawsuit over the transgender policy, called Policy 8040. The new policy, adopted on Aug. 11, also allows transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Langhofer, however, is focused only on changing the pronoun piece of the policy to “include an accommodation for teachers that don’t want to be forced to use pronouns for students that are inconsistent with their biological sex,” on freedom of speech and religious grounds.

“This will have a big effect, but not just on issues about transgenders — but this is a broader issue to protect … all teachers,” he said. “They shouldn’t be forced to express messages that they disagree with.”

The school board declined to comment when contacted by The Hill, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

The case could be heard by the Loudoun County Circuit Court before Christmas, according to Langhofer.

Loudoun4All said they were hoping the court rules in favor of transgender rights.

“We look forward to the court’s ruling on the remainder of the claims regarding the case, as these efforts, by a nationally recognized anti-LGBTQ hate organization, to deny basic parental rights of transgender students are horrendous,” the group said.

Tags Alliance for Defending Freedom lawsuit Loudon County Loudon County Board of Education Loudoun County Public Schools Loudoun4all Tanner Cross transgender rights Virginia

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