A judge has ruled that a Virginia teacher suspended for telling a school board he would not use transgender students’ preferred pronouns should be reinstated.
Judge James E. Plowman Jr. said Tuesday that Leesburg Elementary School teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross must be allowed to return to his job after the school’s principal suspended him in late May for objecting to a proposed policy on how to address transgender students.
The policy would allow transgender students to use their chosen names and gender pronouns. Cross, who teaches physical education, said the policy violates his religious beliefs.
“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 said in comments made the Loudoun County School Board last month, NBC 4 reported.
During a court hearing on Friday, an attorney for Loudoun County schools said the principal of Cross’ school feared a backlash from parents and removed Cross from his position.
Chris Candice Tuck, the vice president of Equality Loudoun, a nonprofit advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, said Cross’ refusal to use preferred pronouns could affect a child’s safety.
“Religion doesn’t factor in here, it’s the safety and well-being of a child,” Tuck, who identifies as transgender and has two children, told WTHR. “As a parent in Loudoun County, it doesn’t matter what my children are, they should be cared for, affirmed and kept safe by their teachers, their staff and their faculty. That’s what we trust them to do. Not for those teachers and staff to bring their religious beliefs in as a way to harass and hurt students.”
In his ruling on Tuesday, Plowman said Cross’ comments are protected speech and that the district could not prove there was a disruption to school operations based on his comments.
Cross has also filed a lawsuit against the school, arguing that his First Amendment rights were violated.
“When LCPS suspended Tanner, they crossed a line, and that’s why we took them to court,” Cross’ attorney, Tyson Langhofer, told NBC 4.
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