Court Orders Loudoun County School Board to Reinstate Teacher Suspended for Christian Speech on LGBT

Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross addresses the Loudoun County School Board during the public comment portion of the May 25 meeting. LCPS/Vimeo

The Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Virginia is ordering the Loudoun County School Board in Virginia to immediately reinstate a gym teacher who was placed on leave after opposing transgender polices at a school board meeting last month.

The court issued a temporary injunction on Tuesday, ordering the board to immediately reinstate gym teacher Bryon “Tanner” Cross, who was suspended after he cited science and Christianity when opposing a draft policy that requires teachers to agree with children’s claim that they are members of the opposite sex.

“I love all my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences,” Cross said, in part, at a Loudoun school board meeting on May.

A court opinion by Judge James Plowman states that the Plaintiff (Cross) “contends 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.”

Judge Plowman continued:

Whether the Plaintiff’s speech at the School Board meeting was protected is determined by applying the standards set forth in Pickering v Board of Education — more specifically, was Plaintiff speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern and do Plaintiff’s interests in speaking outweigh Defendants’ in restricting the Plaintiff.

Here, it is clear the Plaintiff was speaking as a citizen, not in his official capacity. 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. Plaintiff had to abide by the same process to speak as any other citizen. Although this was not formally conceded by the Defendants’, analysis of this was not argued.

It is further apparent that the subject matter upon which the Plaintiff spoke was one that can only be described as a “matter of public concern.” The enactment of a school policy as it relates to transgender issues, as well as the expected conduct of staff and students within the public school system, falls squarely within this scope. Additionally, Defendants referenced related school policies on this same subject matter as well as Virginia statutes and Federal law. Laws and policies enacted by elected legislators, by their very nature, invite political discourse. They are on their face, matters of public, political and societal interest.

Judge Plowman went on to say, “The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the Defendants to suspend Plaintiff’s employment.”

“The Court further finds that the weight of the evidence and the totality of the circumstances, clearly show that the four prongs for issuance of temporary injunction have been satisfied,” the judge concluded.

Loudoun County Public Schools is currently at the center of an ongoing feud involving critical race theory.

The case is Cross v. Loudoun County School Board, No. CL 21-3254 in Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Virginia.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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