Judge: School district must reinstate teacher who won’t call trans students by preferred pronouns

A Virginia judge ruled Tuesday that a public school district must temporarily reinstate a gym teacher who was suspended after he told officials that he refuses to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman, Jr. granted a temporary injunction requiring the Loudoun County Public Schools district to immediately reinstate Leesburg Elementary School teacher Byron Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues.

“The plaintiff’s interest in expressing his First Amendment speech outweigh the defendants’ interest in restricting the same, and the level of disruption that defendant asserts did not serve to meaningfully disrupt the operation or services of Leesburg Elementary School,” Judge Plowman wrote.

The suit stems from Mr. Cross’ suspension following a school board meeting last month where he said he will not abide by a proposed policy that violates his Christian beliefs.

“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Mr. Cross said at the meeting. “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.”

Mr. Cross is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian legal group, which praised the judge’s ruling Tuesday.

“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,” ADF President Michael Farris said in a statement. “Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect.”

The draft of the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) policy at issue is called “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.”

The proposal states that “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.”

A spokesperson for LCPS did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

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