Judge to rule on lifting Virginia teacher’s suspension after pronoun comments

A Loudoun County, Virginia, judge said he expects to rule Monday on whether to reinstate teacher Byron Tanner Cross, who was suspended after telling the school board he wouldn’t address transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher, told the Loudoun County School Board at a May 25 public forum that he opposed a draft policy on the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students.

“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Cross said. “I 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 school system confirmed Cross had been put on paid administrative leave.

Cross sued the school district, claiming the board’s actions were retaliatory and violated his constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. He is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit.

Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jim Plowman heard arguments Friday, after Cross’ lawyers asked Plowman to issue an emergency injunction reinstating him.

Lawyers for the school system said Cross was not being disciplined for what he said, but that his school board comments had been disruptive, prompting several parents to complain.

Cross’ lawyers countered that the day after his school board comments, he had conducted class without disruption, and that parents’ complaints were out of school.

In addition, Cross’ attorneys said the school system’s decision to promptly suspend him would “chill other teachers from speaking about any policies under consideration for fear of further retaliation.”

After Friday’s court arguments, Plowman said he would issue an opinion by late Monday.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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