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'I Serve God First': Teacher Wins Trans Dispute with Loudoun County School Board, Lawsuit Over Policy Goes On

11-16-2021
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Leesburg Elementary School Teacher Tanner Cross speaks during a press conference on Monday, Nov. 15. (Image credit: Alliance Defending Freedom)

The Loudoun County School Board has agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting it from retaliating against Leesburg Elementary School teacher Tanner Cross for expressing his constitutionally protected views on the board's transgender policy. 

As CBN News has reported, Cross made headlines earlier this year after he was suspended for telling the school board that he wouldn't address children by preferred pronouns because it violates his Christian beliefs. 

"I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them, regardless of the consequences," he said in late May. "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. It's lying to a child. It's abuse to a child. And it's sinning against our God."  

Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Circuit Court Ruling

In an earlier ruling, the Loudoun County Circuit Court granted Cross' request for preliminary relief against retaliation by the school board. That came after he had spoken at a public school board meeting, objecting to the proposed Policy 8040 which forces teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address "transgender and gender-expansive" students by their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex. 

As CBN News reported in September, the Virginia Supreme Court later affirmed the lower court's ruling. The settlement makes Cross' job protection permanent.

Cross is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal firm dedicated to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life. 

As part of the settlement, the Loudoun County School Board also agreed to remove any reference to Cross' suspension from his personnel file and to pay $20,000 toward Cross' attorneys' fees.

School Board Approved Controversial 'Policy 8040'

In August, the court allowed ADF attorneys to amend the original complaint to add new claims against newly enacted Policy 8040 on the Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students, and to include Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart's Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright as clients alongside Cross. That portion of the lawsuit will continue against the board.

The school board approved Policy 8040 on Aug. 11. It specifies that all staff shall "shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their consistently asserted gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student's permanent educational record."

Students are also permitted to use the restroom or locker room "that corresponds to their consistently asserted gender identity." 

One Teacher Publicly Resigned Over Policy

Cross's suspension led to several heated school board meetings with angry outbursts from parents who strongly disagreed with the then-proposed policy.  

One teacher even resigned during an Aug. 10 school board meeting, as CBN News reported, insisting that she could not support their "politicized agendas."

"I quit your policies," declared Laura Morris. "I quit your training, and I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents – children."

The amended complaint filed in Cross v. Loudoun County School Board explains that if Gill, Wright, and Cross were to comply with the school board's demands, "they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa. But if they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe—that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires."

In a press conference Monday, Cross said teachers are like just everyone else.

"We have ideas, views that we should be free to express," he said. "And the court has vindicated those rights for me and for all teachers. I can now confidently continue teaching at Leesburg Elementary School without fear of punishment for expressing my views."

Cross said Policy 8040 "threatens all teachers' ability to teach consistently with their beliefs and harms the very children it claims to protect."

"As I said at the school board in June, I cannot lie to a child. But that's exactly what the policy requires me to do," he said. "So today, we ask the court to halt this policy, because it forced me to say things that are both untrue and harmful to my students." 

"The Loudoun County School Board is wrong in thinking they can make teachers take a position on matters that have nothing to do with school curriculum and are part of a broad societal debate," Cross said. 

"Words carry meaning," Gill pointed out at the press conference. 

"If teachers are forced to use a pronoun for a student that is not in alignment with their biological sex, they are conveying to that student the gender is fluid, and that is not true. That goes against biology, science, and reality," she said.

CBN News reached out to LCPS on Tuesday for comment. In an email, the district's public information officer replied, "We have no comment."

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