A physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School has been placed on administrative leave after telling the School Board that, based on his religious beliefs, he would not comply with draft polices concerning the rights of transgender students.
The School Board is developing policies to meet a new Virginia Department of Education mandate to protect learners of all gender identities.
Byron “Tanner” Cross addressed the School Board during the public comment section of its May 25 meeting.
“My name is Tanner Cross and I am speaking out of love for those who suffer gender dysphoria,” he said. He spoke about a recent “60 Minutes” segment that interviewed youths who regretted their decisions to transition.
“It is not my intent to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we all must face when ready. We condemn school policies, like 8040 [Rights of Transgender and Gender Expansive Students] and 8035 [Sexual Discrimination, Sexual Assault], because [they] would damage children and defile the holy image of God,” Cross said. “I love all my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. I’m a teacher, but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa, because it is against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it is sinning against our God.”
Two days later, Cross was placed on administrative leave by interim Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Talen Development Lucia Villa Sebastian, pending an “investigations of allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
The Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom has threatened legal action unless Cross is reinstated.
“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, but it’s beyond the pale to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting, which is what such meetings are designed for,” stated Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology. The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well. That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”