The Supreme Court of Virginia has found that the Loudoun County School Board did not prove a lower court abused its discretion in granting a temporary injunction of a teacher’s suspension.
Byron Tanner Cross was put on paid administrative leave after criticizing a then-proposed transgender policy in May. He was reinstated after a judge ruled the suspension as likely unconstitutional. School officials then appealed the judge’s ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court.
“The lower court’s decision was a well-reasoned application of the facts to clearly established law, as the Virginia Supreme Court found,” Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Tyson Langhofer said.
Alliance sued the school board on behalf of Cross, who was joined by two other Loudoun County school teachers.
The state Supreme Court ruled that Cross is relying on the Virginia constitution’s freedom of speech clause, which includes the right to peaceably assemble and to petition.
“Looking to federal precedent as persuasive, it is settled law that the government may not take adverse employment actions against its employees in reprisal for their exercising their right to speak on matters of public concern,” according to Virginia Supreme Court documents.
The high court also said that there was no evidence to corroborate that Cross was suspended because of a reasonable expectation that parents would avoid interacting with him to the point that he would not be able to fulfill his duties.
A physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, Cross told the county’s school board that the use of preferred gender pronouns for transgender students was against his religion during a board meeting in May.
The school board voted earlier this month to pass a measure that would expand the rights of transgender students in the county’s schools.
The policy requires students and teachers to address students by their chosen pronoun, regardless of the students’ biological gender. It also allows transgender student-athletes to participate on teams based on their gender identity.
A spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools said the school system has no comment on the ruling.