by WorldTribune Staff, August 31, 2021
The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court's decision to reinstate Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School who was suspended by Loudoun County Public Schools after refusing to affirm the board's transgender agenda.
Cross had spoken out during May as the Loudoun school board was considering new requirements that would accommodate and promote the transgender agenda. He said as a Christian he could not do that. He was suspended within 24 hours, when the school claimed his comments caused a "disruption."
The lower court in June had ruled Cross's suspension was likely unconstitutional as his comments were protected by the First Amendment. The school district appealed to the high court.
"Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, nor should they be silenced for commenting at a public meeting," Tyson Langhofer, counsel for Cross. "The lower court’s decision was a well-reasoned application of the facts to clearly established law, as the Virginia Supreme Court found. But because Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment, we have moved to amend our lawsuit to challenge that policy on behalf of multiple faculty members. Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job."
Loudoun County "has been ground zero in America for the fight over transgender mandates in public schools in recent weeks, and just days ago formally adopted a policy demanding adherence to the socio-political agenda," Bob Unruh noted in an Aug. 30 analysis for WND
"The board's new dictate forces all school district students and staff to refer to 'gender-expansive or transgender' students using whatever pronouns they can choose," Unruh noted.
Related: Va. Democrats declare war after pastor’s public defense of teacher objecting to transgender policy
, June 1, 2021
In filing its appeal to the state supreme court, Loudoun County schools insisted, "Leesburg Elementary School and Loudoun County Public Schools experienced – and continue to experience – significant disruption since the May 25 School Board meeting during which Cross addressed the board. Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary 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. 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."
Judge James E. Plowman Jr. found there was little evidence of any "disruption," with only a handful of emails.
"The court finds that the plaintiff's speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the defendants to suspend plaintiff's employment," Judge Plowman wrote. "Defendants shall immediately reinstate the plaintiff to his position as it was prior to the issuance of this suspension and remove the ban that was placed upon him from all buildings and grounds of Loudoun County Public Schools."
The judge found that Cross was speaking as a citizen, and on a matter of public concern, and that there was "no actual disruption to school operations" because of his comments.
Further, the judge noted that any loss of First Amendment freedoms, "for even minimal periods of time," is "irreparable," and that "similarly situated employees" in the district already have been "chilled from speech" because of the administrators' actions.
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