A teacher in Northern Virginia has filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools after he was placed on paid administrative leave for refusing to address transgender students by their preferred pronouns.
At a school board meeting on May 25, Byron Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, said he 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.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Cross and said that two days after making his comments, Cross received a letter stating 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.”
ADF attorneys sent a letter to the school district requesting that Cross be reinstated, arguing that “placing Cross on leave and barring him from campus because of his constitutionally protected speech constituted illegal retaliation.”
ADF also asked that the school system “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 system responded by saying that it intends to stand by its decision to suspend Cross, according to ADF, which describes itself as a nonprofit legal organization “committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.”
In response, ADF filed a lawsuit against the school district claiming that “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.”
The suit also claims the school district violated his free exercise of religion.
During his May 25 comments to the school board, Cross criticized the system’s new draft policy titled “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.”
According to the proposed policy, “LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence.”
Cross said the policy would damage children and “defile the holy image of God.”
“I love all of my students, but I would never lie to them, regardless of the consequences,” he said. “I am a teacher, but I serve God first.”