Loudoun County Public Schools to appeal court order on reinstating teacher

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia plans to appeal a judge’s order to reinstate physical education teacher Byron Tanner Cross, who was suspended days after telling the school board he would not refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns because of his religious beliefs.

In a statement, LCPS said it “respectfully disagrees with the Circuit Court’s decision to issue the injunction, and it is appealing this ruling to the Supreme Court of Virginia.”

“Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school,” the statement said.

LCPS said while it “respects the rights of public-school employees to free speech and free exercise of religion, those rights do not outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment.”

In his ruling Tuesday, Loudoun County Circuit Judge James Plowman said actions taken by the school system were unconstitutional, and that the school system’s handling of the situation was “extreme” and “vindictive.”

Cross, who teaches at Leesburg Elementary School, was placed on leave less than 48 hours after telling the school board: “I’m a teacher, but I serve God first.”

“I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion,” Cross said. “It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”

Cross is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit conservative legal organization.

Tyson Langhofer, of the organization, said in a statement, “Judge Plowman’s opinion ordering Tanner’s reinstatement was a well-reasoned application of these facts to clearly-established law. We are confident that, if the Virginia Supreme Court hears the appeal, it will affirm the circuit court’s decision.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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