Byron Tanner Cross, the Virginia teacher who was suspended for refusing to use trans students’ preferred pronouns, will be permanently reinstated in Loudoun County Public Schools, a circuit court judge ruled Monday.
Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, was placed on administrative leave earlier this year, after he said at a school board meeting in May that he would not comply with a proposed district policy to refer to trans students by the pronouns that correspond with their gender identity.
Following Monday’s ruling, Loudoun County Public Schools must remove all references to Cross’ suspension from his employee records, must not retaliate against the gym coach for the comments about the proposed district pronoun policy, and must pay $20,000 of his legal fees.
“Just today, the court issued a final order permanently prohibiting the Loudoun County Public School Board from punishing me for freely expressing my views,” Cross said Monday.
“I can now confidently continue teaching at Leesburg Elementary School without fear of punishment for expressing my views.”
Byron Tanner Cross: Pronoun Policy ‘Against My Religion’
At a school board meeting on May 25, Cross had spoken in opposition of proposed district policy 8040, which would require teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns, to “open activities to students according to their gender identity,” to allow children access to bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, and to undergo training on matters related to LGBTQ issues.
“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Cross said at the meeting. “And I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”
He was placed on paid leave after “several” parents complained to district officials, Loudoun Now reported.
Cross filed a civil suit just days after his suspension on June 1. Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the conservative Christian advocacy group representing Cross in court, argued that the teacher’s comments were within his constitutional rights.
“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer at the time. “Nor do they have the right to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting.”
On June 8, Judge James E. Plowman of the 20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia issued a temporary injunction allowing Byron Tanner Cross to return to work. Judge Plowman also criticized Loudoun County district officials for suspending Cross, which he called “extreme.”
District officials reportedly appealed that ruling, but were unsuccessful.
ADF Continues to Challenge Policy 8040
ADF said Monday following the ruling that it would continue to challenge the legality of the proposed pronoun policy in Virginia courts.
The organization has also added two other Loudoun County teachers to the complaint, in addition to Cross, reports indicate — history teacher Monica Gill and English teacher Kim Wright.
“Freedom of speech and religion includes the freedom not to speak messages contrary to our core beliefs, and public schools shouldn’t require teachers to personally endorse a belief with which they disagree, but that’s exactly what Policy 8040 does,” Gill said to Fox News.
“It forces teachers to say things that are untrue and harmful to students,” she said.
Trans Rights Up for Debate at Loudoun County Schools
Byron Tanner Cross’ suspension and reinstatement are the latest developments in the continuing battle between Loudoun County school officials and members of the public over transgender issues.
Last month, a 15-year-old student in the district was found guilty of sexual assaulting another student in a school bathroom — an attack that the victim’s father blamed on the district’s transgender bathroom policies.
Just last week, a school board meeting in Loudoun County devolved into a shouting match as parents called for the removal of board chair Brenda Sheridan for her perceived embrace of “critical race theory.”