The Loudoun County Circuit Court ruled that Tanner Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, had to be reinstated by Loudoun County Public Schools after he was suspended for speaking out against the school district's proposed "preferred pronoun" policy. One policy requires all LCPS staff to use the "chosen name and gender pronouns" of trans students.
The school board chose to place him on administrative leave him with pay from the Leesburg Elementary School and the principal was not involved in the decision making.
Plowman Jr. wrote that he granted the injunction because Cross's rights to speech and religious liberty are central to the case....
"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", he added. He clarified that he loves the children he teaches, but he will not lie to them: "I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of [the] consequences".
Since Cross spoke out on a matter of public concern, in his own private capacity outside of his duties at work, Plowman ruled that LCPS's "retaliatory action adversely affected [Cross's] constitutionally protected speech".
Elementary school teacher Byron "Tanner" Cross was suspended May 27 after briefly speaking against a proposal to require teachers in the Northern Virginia public school system to address students by their preferred pronouns, rather than only by those indicating male or female gender.
"Here, it was clear that the Plaintiff was speaking as a citizen, not in his official capacity". In response, the school system embarked on comprehensive reforms meant to promote racial equity - but the work became mired in controversy after some parents alleged teachers are instructing White children to feel ashamed of their race.
Cross is thrilled with the result, saying: "We're so happy".
"Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy", stated Michael Farris, president and CEO of the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Cross.
"Educators are just like everybody else-they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express", Farris continued.
"Advocating for causes I believe in, on my personal time, should not cost me my job", Cross told supporters on Friday at Leesburg's Cornerstone Chapel, where he is a member. "Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect", he said.
In a statement, school board chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) praised Ziegler for his leadership over the past six months.
Cross also claimed that five school-district employees wished to speak up on the pronoun issue but said they declined to do so, due to the district's action against him. Despite the Defendant ['] s contention that a mechanism was in place to allow him access to LCPS property, that access was not absolute and rested on the subjective determination of his supervisor. Roughly 24 hours later, the district suspended the teacher and barred him from setting foot on school property.