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Loudoun County teacher wins free speech battle

Tanner Cross’ First Amendment rights upheld in settlement, lawsuit challenging Loudoun County School Board policy continues
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LEESBURG, Va. – In settlement of the original claims that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of Leesburg Elementary School teacher Tanner Cross, the Loudoun County School Board has agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting it from retaliating against Cross for expressing his constitutionally protected views on the board’s transgender policy. In an earlier ruling, the Loudoun County Circuit Court granted Cross’ request for preliminary relief against retaliation by the school board over his objection, spoken at a public school board meeting, to then-proposed Policy 8040, which forces teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address “transgender and gender-expansive” students by their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex. The Virginia Supreme Court later affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The settlement makes this relief permanent.

As part of the settlement, the Loudoun County School Board also agreed to remove any reference to Cross’ suspension from his personnel file and to pay $20,000 toward Cross’ attorneys’ fees. In August, the court allowed ADF to amend its original complaint to add new claims against newly enacted Policy 8040 and to include Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright as clients alongside Cross. That portion of the lawsuit will continue against the board.

“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, and they certainly shouldn’t be silenced from commenting at public meetings,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “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. 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.”

The amended complaint filed in Cross v. Loudoun County School Board explains that if Gill, Wright, and Cross were to comply with the school board’s demands, “they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa. But if they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe—that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)

 

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

 

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