Loudoun County teachers seek relief from transgender policy
Three teachers in the Virginia school district object to being forced to use students’ preferred pronouns
After a hearing on Monday, a Virginia state court judge declined to rule immediately on a challenge by three teachers to a controversial transgender policy in the Loudoun County, Va., School District. The policy requires school staff members to address transgender students by their chosen pronouns.
The court did approve a settlement between the school district and one of the teachers, Tanner Cross, to resolve a dispute over comments Cross made criticizing the policy at a school board meeting earlier this year.
Cross, an elementary teacher, sued the Loudoun County School Board in June, asking the court to block the pronoun rule from taking effect. Teachers Monica Gill and Kim Wright later joined the case as plaintiffs.
Besides requiring teachers to use students’ preferred pronouns, the new policy also allows transgender student-athletes to participate on sports teams and use restrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity.
At the hearing Monday, attorneys for the three teachers said the policy forces them to use words in a way that violates their religious beliefs and is false and harmful to students, reported WTOP-FM. School attorneys argued the new policy applies only to “curricular” speech that is school-sponsored and not protected by the First Amendment.
Cross, a Christian who believes the policy will harm children, initially voiced his opposition to the rule at a public school board meeting in May. Two days later, school officials suspended him and banned him from the campus of Leesburg Elementary School. A state judge soon ordered the school to reinstate him, finding that the board violated his rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. (The Virginia Supreme Court later affirmed that ruling.)
In the settlement approved Monday, the school board agreed not to retaliate against Cross for expressing his views on the transgender policy. Yet until a court rules otherwise, Cross and co-teachers Gill and Wright remain subject to the rule.
“Tanner, Monica, and Kim are currently facing an impossible choice: violate their beliefs or be punished,” said Logan Spena, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the teachers. “Teachers should be free to advocate for the good of their students, but this policy is not allowing them to do that and is forcing them to say things that are harmful to children.”
According to Spena, the court indicated it would likely rule on the motion to block the policy within a few weeks.
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