The Virginia Supreme Court issued an order reaffirming that a school teacher was wrongly suspended for objecting to new gender pronoun policies in his school district.
The ruling supports a lower court’s decision to reinstate Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Tanner Cross after Loudoun County Public Schools suspended him for voicing objections to a proposed policy during the public comment period of a school board meeting. The lower court ruled that the school district’s actions were likely unconstitutional, and the state high court agreed.
The school board eventually passed a version of the proposed policy discussed at the May 25 school board meeting, which resulted in Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys recently asking the trial court to allow them to amend the lawsuit to challenge that policy on behalf of three faculty members, now including Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright. The new policy forces all of the school district’s students and staff to refer to “gender-expansive or transgender” students using whatever gender pronoun is chosen by the student, regardless of whether the pronoun is consistent with the student’s biological sex.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, nor should they be silenced for commenting at a public meeting,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “The lower court’s decision was a well-reasoned application of the facts to clearly established law, as the Virginia Supreme Court found. But because Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment, we have moved to amend our lawsuit to challenge that policy on behalf of multiple faculty members. Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job.”
To support its ruling in Loudoun County School Board v. Cross, the Virginia Supreme Court pointed to another ADF case, Meriwether v. Hartop, in which “the Sixth Circuit emphatically held that a university professor stated viable free speech and free exercise claims based on his university’s disciplining him for refusing, based on his Christian faith, to use a student’s preferred pronouns.”