A Christian physical education teacher is fighting back after his Virginia school district suspended him for voicing opposition to newly implemented transgender-affirming policies that he said violated his religious beliefs.
Tanner Cross, who teaches at Leesburg Elementary School, was placed on administrative leave by Loudon County Public Schools last week after he declared in a speech before the school board that he would not “defile” God and “lie” to his students by affirming that “a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa.
During the speech, Cross calmly and respectfully explained that it would be a violation of his religious beliefs for him to abide by the new reforms — which require staff to use a student’s preferred gender pronouns and allows transgender students to participate in activities consistent with their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
“It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God,” he said.
Shortly after he delivered the speech, Cross was informed by the district that he had been placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
As a part of the suspension, Cross was restricted from accessing the buildings and grounds of Loudon County Public Schools property and barred from attending any district-sponsored activities or events.
On Tuesday, Cross filed a lawsuit against the district in response to their actions, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the law firm representing him in the case.
ADF reported that it sent a letter to the district on Friday “explaining that placing Tanner on leave and barring him from campus because of his constitutionally protected speech constituted illegal retaliation.” The firm requested that Tanner be reinstated and warned the district that future retaliation would elicit legal action.
But in response, the district said it stood by its decision to suspend Tanner and would not reinstate him prior to completion of the investigation, prompting the lawsuit to be brought.
“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, nor do they have the right to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting,” ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement.
“The school district favors a certain set of beliefs on a hotly contested issue, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well. That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave,” he added.
Loudoun County teacher put on administrative leave after speaking to the school board.