Court rules teacher allowed to disagree
Virginia parents and teachers push back against progressive ideology
Elementary school teacher Tanner Cross did not realize that speaking up at his Loudoun County, Va., school board meeting might cost him his job. At the May 25 meeting, he criticized policies that required teachers to address students using their preferred pronouns. Two days later, the school board suspended the physical education instructor and banned him from campus, saying his criticisms had a disruptive impact at Leesburg Elementary School.
A state court judge on Tuesday ordered the board to reinstate the suspended teacher immediately. James E. Plowman Jr.’s order, effective through Dec. 31, found the board violated Cross’s free speech and free exercise of religion rights. Plowman ruled Cross was entitled to First Amendment protection because he made his comments in his personal capacity and on a matter of public concern. The judge also found no real disruption to school operations occurred.
In his lawsuit against the Loudoun County School Board, Cross pointed to his remarks explaining that he was speaking out of love for students suffering from gender dysphoria. “It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face,” Cross said, telling the board that the controversial policies “will damage children and defile the holy image of God.”
Cross is only the latest educator caught up in the controversy surrounding preferred pronoun rules in schools. A federal appeals court in March sided with Ohio professor Nicholas Meriwether, who declined to address a biological male student with a feminine pronoun, finding that both his free speech and free exercise of religion rights had been violated. But Virginia high school French teacher Peter Vlaming continues to litigate his 2018 firing from a Williamsburg high school over similar issues.
Loudoun County has become a flashpoint for conservative opposition to progressive policies, whether transgender ideology or critical race theory. Two advocacy groups, Parents Against Critical Theory and the Loudoun Republican Women’s Club, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the school system’s “equity student ambassador” program, which limits eligibility to non-white students, as well as its bias response system.
Like Cross, some parents, teachers, and students argue that
public school administrators are out of line in compelling teachers to express
or adopt ideological beliefs they do not hold or which offend their religious
“Advocating for causes I believe in, on my personal time, should not cost me my job,” Cross told supporters on Friday at Leesburg’s Cornerstone Chapel, where he is a member.
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