A judge has ruled that a Virginia gym teacher must be allowed to go back to work after receiving a suspension for refusing to use the “preferred pronouns” of transgender students.
In a seven-page temporary injunction, Circuit Judge James E. Plowman ordered Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to reinstate Byron “Tanner” Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School. Cross said at an LCPS board meeting in May that his Christian faith prevents him from recognizing the legitimacy of transgender pronouns. In response, the district slapped him with a suspension and barred him from school grounds.
Cross filed a lawsuit against LCPS last week, claiming his suspension was a retaliatory act that violated his free speech rights. Judge Plowman appeared to agree with Cross’ claim in the injunction letter.
“It is clear the Plaintiff was speaking as a citizen, not in his official capacity,” he wrote. “His speech was not conducted at his usual place of employment, occurred during non-working hours and at a forum where public comment was invited.”
“The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s public comments do not fall within a class of unprotected speech as argued by Defendants [and] was not ‘solely a private dispute,’” the judge added.
Cross’ comments came during the school board’s discussion of a proposed policy titled “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.” The policy would allow such students to “use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.” It further stipulates that “staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy.”
“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,” Cross said. “It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”
A trial will be scheduled for Cross’ lawsuit no later than June 16.