On Tuesday, a Virginia teacher filed a lawsuit against a school board after it suspended him for speaking out against a proposed LGBT policy.
The proposed policy by Loudoun County Public Schools would require staff to use the name and pronouns that correspond to a student’s gender identity. The proposal also would allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that match their gender identity.
Tanner Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School teacher, attended the May 25 school board meeting and spoke out against the proposal, saying it would “damage children.”
“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” he said, according to Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF is representing Cross.
Two days later, the school suspended him with pay and prohibited him from going on school property.
The lawsuit, filed in Virginia state court, says Cross believes children “should not be encouraged to undertake social or medical transition” because of “their inability to assess long-term consequences.” He is a Christian who “endeavors to treat every person with dignity, love, and care,” the lawsuit says.
The school is violating his rights of free speech and free exercise of religion under the Virginia Constitution, the suit says.
“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,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “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.”
A “truly tolerant society can permit” differences “and accommodate all views,” the suit says.
“[T]his case is not about how schools should treat students who struggle with gender dysphoria,” the lawsuit says. “It is about whether public schools can punish a teacher for objecting, as a private citizen, to a proposed policy, in a forum designated for the purpose of considering whether to implement such policies, where the policy would force him to express ideas about human nature, unrelated to the school’s curriculum, that he believes are false.”
The school board, the suit says, is sending a message “to all District teachers” that they risk suspension if they testify at board meetings.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Emilija Manevska
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.