Imagine you’re at a school board meeting discussing changes to school district policy, and one of the teachers speaks up. He thoughtfully voices some concerns.
How would you react? Even if you disagree, would you appreciate the fact that he is thinking deeply about issues that impact your student? I know I would.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened when Tanner Cross, an elementary school teacher in Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, respectfully explained his objections to a proposed school policy during the public comment period of a school board meeting. He also shared his belief—and the scientific fact—that there are two biological sexes, which can’t be changed.
Less than 48 hours later, the teacher was suspended. Far from appreciating his input as an educator, school officials punished him for speaking up.
But it is this teacher’s right—and every American’s right, for that matter—to speak their opinion at a public meeting. And it’s unconstitutional for the school district to punish a teacher for exercising that right.
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against school district officials to hold them accountable for their unconstitutional actions. Thankfully, in June, a Loudoun County Judge held that the teacher was likely to prevail in the lawsuit and ordered the school to allow him to return to work while the lawsuit continues.
Regrettably, the school board failed to heed the teacher’s concerns about the proposed policy. On August 11, the school board enacted the policy . And now, two additional teachers from Loudoun County School District are joining the lawsuit to challenge this unconstitutional policy .
So, what is so troublesome about the policy?
The policy forces teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address “gender-expansive or transgender students” in a manner inconsistent with their biological sex. In other words, this policy forces teachers to lie to students and embrace an ideology that ultimately could harm them.
And as Dr. Stephen B. Levine, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, wrote in an expert declaration to the court in a separate ADF case:
Putting a child or adolescent on a pathway towards life as a transgender person puts that individual at risk of a wide range of long-term or even life-long harms, including: 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.
And the policy requires teachers to use pronouns inconsistent with biological sex “without any substantiating evidence,” which means before the student even meets the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria or any other condition. Loudoun County Public Schools is asking its teachers to send children down a path that poses serious health risks with no questions asked.
So, you can understand why the teachers don’t feel comfortable with that.
At various school board meetings, teachers Tanner, Monica Gill, and Kim Wright each respectfully explained their concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria but also their concerns about being forced to violate their beliefs. As Christians, they believe that God created two sexes—male and female—and that this biological reality can’t be changed. They also believe it would be harmful to their students to promote an ideology that says otherwise.
The bottom line is that the school district can’t use teachers as a mouthpiece to promote a political agenda that violates their beliefs. But that is exactly what it is trying to do. First, by punishing the teacher when he exercised his constitutional right to speak up against the proposed policy, and now demanding that all teachers toe the ideological line or face the consequences.
It must stop.
The debate over the school’s policy is about much more than pronouns. It’s about scientific truth. It’s about whether the government can force teachers to endorse an ideology that conflicts with their beliefs.
And the teachers’ case is about something even more important: it’s about whether we have the right to voice dissenting opinions to our elected officials at all. Not everyone will agree with these courageous teachers about what the school’s policy should be. But, in a free society, everyonemust have the right to make their case to their elected officials about what the policy should be.
There’s a lot at stake.
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