The Loudoun County Public Schools District in Virginia will appeal a June 8 Circuit Court decision to reinstate Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Byron "Tanner" Cross after he was suspended for speaking out against the district’s gender policies during a recent Board of Education meeting.
''LCPS respectfully disagrees with the Circuit Court’s decision to issue the injunction, and it is appealing this ruling to the Supreme Court of Virginia,'' the district said in a statement on its website Friday. ''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,'' the statement continued.
''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.''
Cross was put on paid leave May 27 for allegedly engaging ''in conduct that has a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School,'' a letter to Cross from the district said.
Cross addressed the board May 25 and said he would not address transgender students by their chosen pronouns because he would be lying to them and committing a ''sin,'' according to his religious beliefs.
"It's not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready. We condemn school policies [that] would damage children, defile the holy image of God,'' Cross told the board. "I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. I am 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 is against my religion. It's lying to a child, it's abuse to a child, and it's sinning against our God."
Cross sued the district after going on leave and enlisted the aid of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which, according to the organization, is ''the largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, and parental rights.''
In his ruling June 8, Virginia Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman granted a temporary injunction on the district, reinstating Cross as a teacher.
Plowman’s ruling was critical of the district’s actions in removing Cross from teaching and banning him from being on school property or attending school events, saying it was ''an unnecessary and vindictive act given the end of the school year was so close.''
Cross’ remarks to the board were critical of policies currently being considered by the board to align with state legislation that calls on the state’s school boards to adopt "policies that are consistent with model policies developed by the [Virginia] Department of Education" by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, the Loudoun Times-Mirror reported at the time.
A draft of one of the proposed policies the Loudoun County board is considering, 8040, would allow ''gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record.''
The policy is currently in front of the board’s Pupil Services Committee and has not yet come in front of the full board for a vote.
The district reports being the third largest in the state with an enrollment of 81,504 students across 95 schools, including 59 elementary schools, and an operating budget of just over $1 billion.
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