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Supreme Court of the United States

Court Upholds Tanner Cross’ Free Speech Rights

November 17, 2021

On August 11, 2021, the Loudoun County School District board enacted a policy that required public school teachers to refer to “gender-expansive or transgender students” with pronouns inconsistent with biological sex.

And they did this in spite of concerns raised by many parents and teachers, including Monica Gill, Kim Wright, and Leesburg Elementary School teacher Tanner Cross.

In fact, the board not only proceeded with this extreme policy while ignoring Tanner—the board attempted to silence him for objecting to it.

Less than 48 hours after he voiced his opinion about the policy during the public comment period at a school board meeting, Tanner was suspended. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom stepped in to advocate for his rights.

Now, a settlement has been reached with Loudoun County School District that permanently prohibits school officials from retaliating against Tanner for exercising his free speech rights.

Let’s dive into the details.

Cross v. Loudoun County School Board

Teachers Monica Gill, Kim Wright, and Tanner Cross aren’t asking for much—they simply don’t want to be fired for declining to refer to students using pronouns inconsistent with the student’s biological sex.

At various board meetings, Monica, Kim, and Tanner told the school board that using pronouns that are inconsistent with a child’s biological sex went against their personal beliefs and would be harmful to their students. They could neither endorse a harmful policy nor be forced to endorse an ideology that violated their beliefs.

They simply shouldn’t be forced to communicate a message they don’t believe is true, a message that could harm the physical and emotional well-being of a minor. Loudoun County’s policy 8040 forces them to become mouthpieces for a radical gender ideology that could, in the words of Dr. Stephen B. Levine, put a child “at risk of a wide range of long-term or even life-long harms.”

As Dr. Levine explains, these harms include “sterilization (whether chemical or surgical) and associated regret and sense of loss… physical health risks associated with exposure to elevated levels of cross-sex hormones; surgical complications and life-long after-care; alienation of family relationships; inability to form healthy romantic relationships and attract a desirable mate; elevated mental health risks.”

So, after the Loudoun County School Board suspended Tanner, ADF attorneys asked the Loudoun County Circuit Court to allow Tanner to return to the classroom to teach, and the court granted this request. Later, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to reinstate Tanner to the classroom. Now, as part of a settlement, Loudoun County School Board agreed to (i) an injunction permanently prohibiting it from punishing Tanner for his speech opposing the policy, (ii) remove any reference to the suspension from Tanner’s files, and (iii) pay $20,000 toward Cross’ attorney’s fees.

But the three teachers are still committed to standing up for the First Amendment rights of every teacher. “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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.

He continued: “Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job. Freedom—of speech and religious exercise—includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs. 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.”

As Tanner, Monica, and Kim’s lawsuit moves forward against the school board, LCPS is now permanently prohibited by the court from punishing Tanner for exercising his free speech rights.

And that’s a win for all of us.


Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith


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