A Virginia gym teacher who was suspended for objecting to two policies related to transgender students because he said they went against his religion has been ordered to be reinstated by a judge, who pointed to free speech and religious liberty in his decision.
Byron Tanner Cross, 38, was suspended from Leesburg Elementary in Loudoun County, Virginia, two weeks ago, after speaking at a school board meeting on May 25.
He was arguing over two policies put in place by the public school board: one mandating teachers use the pronouns a transgender child identifies with, and one allowing transgender kids to take part in sports with the gender they identify with. The second one also allows kids to use the locker room and bathroom of the gender they identify with.
Cross, in his speech, said the policies ‘defile the holy image of God’ and constitute child abuse. He also cited a recent 60 Minutes where Leslie Stahl interviewed a handful of young people who had transitioned within months of seeking treatment then regretted it.
Byron Tanner Cross, 38, was reinstated to Leesburg Elementary in Loudoun County, Virginia on Tuesday after being suspended two weeks ago
Cross was suspended from Leesburg Elementary after speaking out during a school board meeting against policies that would affirm the identity of transgender students
He was suspended afterwards with just about three weeks left in the school year and the school board said it was investigating his remarks.
On Tuesday, Twelfth Circuit Judge James E. Plowman ordered the school district to restore Cross’ job.
‘Defendants shall immediately reinstate the Plaintiff to his position as it was prior to the issuance of his suspension and remove the ban that was placed upon him from all buildings and grounds of Loudoun County Public Schools,’ a letter from Plowman read.
Cross had filed a restraining order and temporary injunction, demanding his job back and asking that his views not be censored again.
The temporary injunction is set to stay in place until December 31 unless any alterations are agreed to before then.
If either side is to request a trial, the judge says they must initiate that process by June 16.
In his letter, Plowman suggested that the school district would lose a case against Cross at trial based on the merits of the case, arguing that Cross’ First Amendment rights were impacted adversely.
Plowman pointed to emails the school district received in regards to Cross, saying they didn’t prove Cross had disrupted the school day and that the few emails paled in comparison to the size of the school.
‘[T]he Court has found … that the disruption relied upon was insufficient,’ Plowman wrote.
‘The Court finds that in balancing all of the factors and weighing the facts presented, the Plaintiff’s interest in expressing his First Amendment speech outweigh the Defendants interest in restricting the the same,’ Plowman wrote.
Five declarations were provided to the court from other school staff who felt they couldn’t speak about the issue after Cross’ suspension for fears of retaliation.
Cross is pictured with his wife. She said they were grateful for the support he received
Angela Cross posted previously that ‘no American has the right to impose their beliefs’
The judge also said, ‘Upholding constitutional rights serves the public interest’ in making his decision.
Loudoun County Public Schools has not commented on the ruling, but Alliance Defending Freedom – which represented Cross – celebrated the decision.
‘BREAKING: Tanner Cross, a Virginia elementary school teacher and ADF client who was suspended for raising concerns to the board about a proposed gender policy, has won a temporary injunction and the judge has ordered his reinstatement,’ the religious liberty firm tweeted. ‘A massive victory for freedom of speech.’
‘Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy,’ ADF President and CEO Michael Farris added to Fox News.
‘For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues. Educators are just like everybody else — they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs.’
After the ruling, Cross appeared on America Reports with his attorney to praise the decision as well.
‘We’re so happy,’ Cross said during Tuesday’s appearance. ‘There were lots of tears, lots of hugs – we’re just happy we were reinstated and I look forward to going back to serving Leesburg Elementary.’
Shawn Lacey, principal of Leesburg Elementary, sent an email to parents weeks ago saying Cross had been put on leave
He added that he rejected the science that says gender identity can change.
Attorney Tyson Langhofer also stated that he believes Cross will retain his job beyond the injunction, repeatedly pointing to his right to speek freely as a private citizen at a public school board meeting.
Cross previously doubled down on his position on transgender rights, which he said is not in keeping with his Christian views.
He does not believe that every student or teacher in the district should have to accept his view of how best to show compassion to youth struggling with gender dysphoria, but he believes that teachers should not be compelled to say things they do not believe to be true, he said, adding that his faith teaches him using pronouns that don’t correlate to a person’s biological sex would be a ‘lie.’
He argued in his lawsuit that kids he teaches don’t have the wherewithal yet to make a decision as life changing as transitioning, and said the school shouldn’t force a policy that parents might not agree with either.
The school principal sent out this email
‘Children do not have a fully developed capacity to understand the long-term consequences of their decisions,’ his lawyer said in the lawsuit.
Cross also said in his court filing that he doesn’t think it’s right for kids to access bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite biological sex.
He said that where possible, the school should create designated facilities for trans kids who feel like they don’t belong in facilities reserved for their biological sex.
In his speech, Cross said: ‘My name is Tanner Cross and I am speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.
‘”60 Minutes” recently interviewed over 30 young people who transitioned, but they felt led astray because of lack of pushback or how easy it was to make physical changes to their bodies… They are now de-transitioning.
‘It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready.
We condemn school policies [that] would damage children, defile the holy image of God.
‘I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences.
‘I’m a teacher but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion.
‘It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God,’ he said.
Shortly after the meeting, Shawn Lacey, principal of Leesburg Elementary, sent an email to parents saying Cross had been put on leave.
Loudon County, which is home to around 400,000 people, has become a microcosm of issues currently dividing America – critical race theory, transgender rights, gay rights and free speech.
The school district administration building. They have not commented on Tuesday’s ruling
After the ruling, Cross appeared on America Reports with his attorney to praise the decision. ‘We’re so happy,’ Cross said. ‘There were lots of tears, lots of hugs – we’re just happy we were reinstated and I look forward to going back to serving Leesburg Elementary’
Parents there have been up in arms recently about school board decisions to promote diversity and, in parents’ view, dampen free speech and do away with tradition.
They said that anytime they speak out about anything, the school board tries to ‘cancel’ them.
Many parents are praising Tanner as a hero and said he was exercising his First Amendment rights.
Others who have seen the video online said he is transphobic, harmful to kids and shouldn’t be allowed to teach.
Tanner’s wife has taken to Facebook to thank people for their support. She said he was sorry he didn’t get to say goodbye to his students.
Ian Prior, spokesman for Unsilenced Majority, an organization set up to reverse cancel culture and defend free speech, told DailyMail.com last Friday: ‘It is shameful what Loudoun County Public Schools did to this teacher for expressing his beliefs to the school board.
‘He was exercising his First Amendment rights of free speech and to petition the government and this action against him is a clear message from Loudoun County Public Schools that it does not welcome different viewpoints and is not inclusive for those that exercise their constitutional rights.’
The two policies being proposed by the school district have not yet been put into place.