The Supreme Court in Virginia has rejected an appeal from Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), therefore enforcing a lower court ruling that ordered the school district to reinstate Christian teacher Tanner Cross, who was suspended for refusing to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.
Over the summer, Cross made headlines when he vowed not to “lie” to his students about girls becoming boys and vice versa, in protest of the Loudon Schools’ new transgender policies. The school board implemented policies that forced teachers to address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns and allowed students to use whichever bathrooms were aligned with their gender identity.
According to Fox News, Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman in June approved the Christian teacher’s request to hit pause on the county’s decision to suspend him. The judge said that Cross was likely to succeed if he pushed through with a trial, stating that LCPS violated his First Amendment Rights and that reinstating the Christian teacher would be within “public interest.”
The judge also dismissed LCPS’ claim that it only suspended Cross not because of his statements but because of the disruption that ensued. But the events that unfolded showed how the school was infringing on the Christian teacher’s religious rights.
“All we’re asking for really is accommodation for all teachers to be able to speak without being forced to speak things that they believe are untrue and that are harmful to students,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Cross, said. “The accommodation they’re seeking is they would use whatever name students want, they just want to be able to avoid using pronouns that are inconsistent with a student’s biological sex.”
According to WND, the lower court decided that LCPS’ suspension of Cross was unconstitutional due to the fact that he was suspended after his speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. The lower court then ordered Cross to be reinstated and the LCPS decided to appeal to a higher court, but was unsuccessful.
The judge reasoned that there was little evidence of actual “disruption” and that the Christian teacher at the time of his speech was speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern.
The judge argued that the loss of First Amendment freedoms “for even minimal periods of time” is “irreparable” and that “similarly situated employees” in the district have already been “chilled from speech” because of the LCPS’ school board’s decisions.
He added, “Enjoining a retaliatory suspension will not serve to harm the defendants. Further, it will serve to restore, to some degree, the reputation of the plaintiff that may have been harmed by defendants’ actions.”
The judge also said that Cross’ termination was “an unnecessary and vindictive act.” Following the case, several other teachers are being added as plaintiffs. ABC13 News reported that LCPS’ appeal to the Supreme Court read, “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.”