() A Virginia public school teacher who was suspended for criticizing a proposed transgender policy will keep his job and the school cannot retaliate against him for expressing his views on the now-adopted policy, per the order of a settlement agreement.
Loudoun County school teacher Tanner Cross sued the school district after he was suspended two days after criticizing the proposed policy during a public hearing.
The gym teacher told board members he would refuse to use a student’s preferred gender if it did not match his or her biological sex because he would not affirm that a biological boy could be a girl or a biological girl could be a boy.
Five parents requested their students be removed from his class and the school quickly placed him on administrative leave.
Cross sued the school with assistance from Alliance Defending Freedom, arguing he cannot legally be suspended for voicing his opinion in a public forum. Because the school is public, his lawyers argued his suspension violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
Another part of the lawsuit, which claims the policy itself is a First Amendment violation, is still ongoing. ADF’s lawyers allege that forcing a teacher to refer to someone by a pronoun that does not match his or her biological sex forces a teacher to say things that conflict with his or her core beliefs.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, and they certainly shouldn’t be silenced from commenting at public meetings,”ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement. “While we are very pleased that Tanner will be able to keep serving his students in light of this settlement, the concerns expressed in our ongoing lawsuit challenging the district’s policy remain.”
ADF’s lawyers allege that forcing a teacher to refer to someone by a pronoun that does not match his or her biological sex forces a teacher to say things that conflict with his or her core beliefs.
“Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job,” Langhofer said.
“Freedom—of speech and religious exercise—includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs,” he added. “That’s why our lawsuit asks the court to protect the constitutional rights of our clients by immediately halting enforcement of this harmful school district policy.”
The amended lawsuit claims if the teachers comply with the policy they are being forced to “communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa.”
In the amended lawsuit, ADF continues to represent Cross, but also represents two other teachers—Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright.