The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling Monday that ordered Loudoun County Public Schools to reinstate a gym teacher who spoke against a proposal requiring that transgender students be addressed by their preferred pronouns.
Tanner Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary, was suspended after a May 25 school board meeting where he said that he could not abide by proposed rules that would require teachers to address transgender students according to their chosen gender.
“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 is against my religion. It’s lying to a child. It’s abuse to a child,” Cross said at the hearing.
LCPS said Tuesday morning that they had no comment on the ruling.
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Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative, Christian legal group, sued the county school board and filed for an emergency injunction on behalf of Cross.
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Plowman ruled in June that Cross was exercising his right to free speech when he told the board he could not abide by the proposal based on his religious beliefs. His order required Cross’ immediate reinstatement until a full trial was held.
The school system then said in a statement it “respectfully disagrees” with the decision and would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
“Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school,” the statement said. While it “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.”
The Loudoun County School Board approved the policy on the treatment of transgender students in August, following public meetings where emotions ran high, a teacher quit and a man was arrested.