A Virginia teacher is suing his school district after he was placed on paid leave and barred from school grounds for refusing to address transgender students by their chosen names and pronouns.
Physical education instructor Tanner Cross of Leesburg Elementary School declared he would never “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa” during a school board meeting in late May. Cross said his strong Christian faith drove him to the refusal, insisting that using transgender students’ selected pronouns and names amounts to “lying to a child ... abuse to a child ... and it’s sinning against our God.”
Cross was speaking against a school policy, still in the draft phase, that would require Loudoun County Public Schools staffers to use the names and pronouns that reflect students’ gender identities. One school board member recently said the policy is meant to prevent children from feeling isolated and marginalised for their differences.
School officials placed him on paid administrative leave two days later, on 27 May. They also barred Cross from school grounds, school-sponsored activities and from future school board meetings, according to Cross’s lawsuit.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, alleges that Loudoun County Public Schools administrators violated Cross’s right to free speech and his right to the free exercise of religion as granted in the Virginia Constitution.
“Mr. Cross used his constitutional right to speak up,” the suit states. “The core of constitutional liberty in a free society — the ability to comment on public policy under consideration without fear of retaliation — is at stake in this case.”
The suit names as defendants the Loudoun school board, interim superintendent Scott Ziegler and Lucia Villa Sebastian, interim assistant superintendent for human resources and talent development. It asks for a temporary restraining order against the defendants and a preliminary injunction directing them to reinstate Cross, end his banishment from school grounds and nix the ban on attending school board meetings.
Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde Byard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.
The suit was filed by two lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group that has been involved in lawsuits that call into question the rights of transgender people. The Alliance is also representing a French teacher in West Point, Virginia, who refused to refer to a transgender student with masculine pronouns.
The 25-page lawsuit goes into great detail on Cross’s religious beliefs and worldview. It explains that he believes God created two genders, male and female, and that his faith “commands him to tell the truth and not tell lies.”
Cross “does not believe that every student or teacher in [Loudoun County] should have to accept his view,” the suit states. “But he also believes that teachers should not be compelled to say things that they do not believe to be true.”
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