ASHBURN, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Leesburg Elementary School teacher filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools Tuesday after officials suspended him for voicing his objections to two proposed school policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting. The policies would force teachers to violate their conscience as educators and their deeply held beliefs by requiring them to address students with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex.
The teacher, Tanner Cross, attended Loudoun County’s school board meeting May 25, where he respectfully explained his concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria and also his concern about being forced to speak something he knows to be false and to violate his beliefs. Two days after the meeting, the school informed Cross in a letter that he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
“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.”
ADF attorneys sent a letter to the school district Friday explaining that placing Cross on leave and barring him from campus because of his constitutionally protected speech constituted illegal retaliation. ADF requested that the school reinstate Cross, rescind the suspension and remove the letter from his file, and refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech if the district wished to avoid legal action.
The school responded to the letter by doubling down on its unconstitutional actions and stating that it intends to stand by its decision to suspend Cross. In response, ADF attorneys filed suit against the school district Tuesday and asked the court to immediately halt the enforcement of Cross’s suspension.
As the lawsuit Cross v. Loudoun County School Board filed in Loudoun County Circuit Court explains, the school board’s actions violated the Virginia Constitution when it punished Cross by retaliating against him for expressing his beliefs in a public forum, and also violated his free exercise of religion by discriminating against his religious beliefs.
- Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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