The Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) plans to appeal a judge’s reinstatement of a high school gym coach who refused to address trans students by their preferred pronouns.
The Virginia school district put gym teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross on leave after he cited his Christian faith in opposition to the proposed Policy 8040, which would require educators to address trans students by the pronouns they prefer.
On Tuesday, the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Virginia ordered Loudoun County to reinstate Cross, ruling that “his suspension was an act of retaliation following his exercise of his rights to free speech in that, 1) his speech was constitutionally protected, 2) the Defendants’ retaliatory action adversely affected the Plaintiff’s constitutionally protected speech, and 3) there was a casual relationship between the speech and the action.”
On Friday, the district announced that they would appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court.
Leesburg Elementary School and Loudoun County Public Schools experienced — and continue to experience — significant disruption since the May 25 School Board meeting during which Cross addressed the board. Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school. Addressing those concerns is paramount to the school division’s goal to provide a safe, welcoming and affirming learning environment for all students.
While the school district claims that parents and students have reached out to them in fear after Cross’s testimony at the school board meeting, they don’t mention the considerable outpouring of support for Cross from parents and students alike. Specifically, one teacher, Jeremy Wright, called school board members the “Chardonnay Antifa” for their treatment of Cross.
“For the members of Chardonnay Antifa, here is your assignment with a copy of the First Amendment attached,” Wright said while holding up a packet of paper. “I’m going to leave this here, and I hope you learn something.”
As to Judge James Plowman’s ruling that the school district violated Cross’s 1st Amendment rights, the LCPS claims:
While LCPS 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.
“It’s against my religion,” Cross said during his speech at the board meeting. “It’s lying to a child. It’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”
Cross has been on paid leave since May 27.