Editor: This week LCPS continued its policy of targeting and retaliating against its critics. Elementary school teacher Tanner Cross simply spoke out against a policy under consideration during the May 25 school board meeting.
Tanner exercised a right as old as the republic which has been reaffirmed, including for schoolteachers, numerous times by the Supreme Court. The next day, Tanner reported to work as normal and taught without incident. Yet, once the radical liberal activists began inundating LCPS with demands to oust Tanner, at the behest of at least one school board member, LCPS summoned Tanner and suspended him solely for speaking at a public hearing.
LCPS’ action is textbook retaliation prohibited by the First Amendment. Tanner issued protected speech, suffered an adverse action by LCPS, and his protected speech was the proximate cause of the adverse action. I know because I, like so many other parents, have been subjected to similar adverse actions after speaking out against LCPS policies and their actions. Nobody is immune for parents, students and teachers alike have all been similarly targeted by LCPS.
However, LCPS did not stop there. In a letter from its HR department, LCPS banned Tanner—a Loudoun resident—from stepping foot on any LCPS property even to run laps on the track. And LCPS informed Tanner he wasn’t allowed to attend any “school-sponsored” activity, such as high school football games or graduation ceremonies, whether on school grounds or anywhere else. I know what you are thinking. LCPS doesn’t have the authority to restrict anybody from events on property it doesn’t own. When courts have dealt with similar draconian restrictions, they mock such school letters by concluding not even targets of such letters would believe the prohibition is legal. But that doesn’t stop LCPS from trying. Each of those restrictions is unconstitutional. Since LCPS opens its external grounds for use by the general public, such as basketball courts or tracks, it cannot exclude anyone based on protected speech. And by opening up events to the public, such as ballgames or recitals, LCPS cannot exclude Tanner from attending simply for criticizing their policies regardless of whether he is a teacher. Both are considered “prior restraints,” among the most prohibited actions a government can take.
By taking these clearly illegal actions, LCPS demonstrates its intention to completely ignore state and federal laws including rights protected under the First Amendment. Recall that Algonkian school board member Atoosa Reaser fancies herself a lawyer. LCPS actions are more akin to a criminal cartel, trying to silence anyone who resists its power or decrees, rather than a school district trying to navigate a path forward protecting the rights of all even when they are in conflict. Moreover, LCPS’ actions create legal liability for all since taxpayers must pick up the tab when LCPS targets prevail in court. It is time for the voters of Loudoun to wake up. We simply cannot allow wanton illegal retaliation by our elected officials to continue any longer.
Brian Davison, Lansdowne