Loudoun Judge Orders Reinstatement of Teacher Suspended After Criticizing Draft Transgender Policy

A Loudoun Circuit Court judge today granted a temporary restraining order to a Leesburg physical education teacher who was placed on leave last week, two days after speaking at a School Board meeting to object to a proposed policy on the division’s protocols for addressing transgender students.

Following a three-hour hearing Friday, Judge James Plowman concluded that school division administrators violated Tanner Cross’ constitutional rights to free speech and religious freedom when imposing the suspension from his job and barring him from school properties.

“The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the Defendants to suspend Plaintiff’s employment. The Court further finds that the weight of the evidence and the totality of the circumstances, clearly show that the four prongs for issuance of temporary injunction have been satisfied,” Plowman wrote.

The decision also noted that the school system went beyond a normal suspension by also restricting his access to all Loudoun County Public Schools properties, which would include the administration building where the School Board meets. Plowman repeatedly described the action as a “retaliatory suspension” and described decision to announce the suspension in an email sent to the Leesburg Elementary School community as “unnecessary and vindictive.” 

The school system is ordered to reinstate Cross to his previous position, a P.E. teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, with the injunction remaining in force until a trial or the end of the year. That trial on Cross’s suspension is not yet scheduled.

The decision also notes that the school system went beyond a normal suspension by also restricting his access to all Loudoun County Public Schools properties, which would include the administration building where the School Board meets.

Cross was suspended two days after saying at a School Board meeting, for religious reasons, he would not abide by new protections for transgender students, which the School Board is currently working to implement locally as required by state law. The school system at a hearing Friday argued Cross’s speech had caused a disruption in part because five families had written to the school to request their children have no contact with him, as well as pointing to higher suicide rates and mental health problems among transgender students whose gender identity is not affirmed.

Cross is represented in the lawsuit by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit headed by Michael Farris, who is also a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College in Purcellville.

“Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy. For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues,” Farris stated in a press release after the decision. “Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs. School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. That’s neither legal nor constitutional. Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect.”

A Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling.

Read the full opinion here.

27 thoughts on “Loudoun Judge Orders Reinstatement of Teacher Suspended After Criticizing Draft Transgender Policy

  • 2021-06-08 at 2:51 pm
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    This was the inevitable next step in a sane world though the Loudoun County Public School Board may not be a “sane world.” The board vastly overstepped here and infringed the rights of a citizen. The school board is bound by laws and cannot “disappear” people from the public sphere on a mere whim.

    We need a board that focuses on educating children and not indoctrinating them. We need a board that works with children, parents and teachers to implement rational policies. This board seems intent on persecuting and punishing anyone who opposes them. This board needs to be replaced immediately before they cause even more damage to the community and the children they are supposed to educate.

  • 2021-06-08 at 2:54 pm
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    This was a no-brainer. What can we conclude from this lesson?

    1. LCPS has effectively been a criminal cartel for years with no regard to parent/teacher/students’ constitutional rights.

    2. The radical, woke, Leftist mob in Loudoun County is not only delusional to think they had any chance but will have to learn to deal with following the law (especially of our Founding Fathers) now these cases will be going to court.

    3. Lawyers are licking their chops to sue LCPS. I’ve always said LCPS is a target rich (legal) zone. You can get them to do anything you want (LCPS acting illegally) to get a precedent set in court. Just pick the issue, give LCPS a chance to violate rights, and sue the pants off them.

    4. Taxpayers are going to be shelling out big $$$ for the unconstitutional acts of the Democrat school board. Try running on that in 2023.

    But the best part is watching the radical Leftists go apoplectic as their fantasies implode.

  • 2021-06-08 at 3:56 pm
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    In an ever confusing world, it’s reassuring that common sense prevailed here.

    Although it feels odd to say it, I’m going to sleep just a little bit better after the Judge had the courage to stand up for the law and the Constitution.

    God, I hope he can’t be cancelled and will be able to fulfill the 7+ years remaining on his term.

  • 2021-06-08 at 4:39 pm
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    I support Mr. Cross and like the decision. However, I don’t believe it was determined that they violated his 1st. It’s kind of like being not guilty does equal to being innocent.

    • 2021-06-08 at 9:10 pm
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      It does mean they violated the First Amendment by retaliating against him and censoring him. Why, exactly, do you think the judge issued an injunction but-for LCPS violating his First Amendment rights?

      The judge cannot award monetary damages without converting this to a summary judgment motion (way too early for that). The injunction is to stop any futher violation of his rights. The damages result from past infringements (since he was suspended). There are some technical issues about whether the claims proferred can overcome sovereign immunity defenses and warrant monetary damages. But that’s way too complex for this forum.

      • 2021-06-10 at 9:28 am
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        In the case of an injunction the judge will look at the likelihood that he will prevail in his lawsuit and that monetary damages will not make him whole. The judge must feel that he will win but he hasn’t ruled that he won.

  • 2021-06-08 at 4:41 pm
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    School Board, School Administration (and BOS for good measure). Let’s be very clear the Constitution is above all federal, state and local laws – just in case you did not know that. Clearly this bunch should not be in charge of teaching our children especially Civics and American History. The School Board like the Board of Supervisors – Please just resign now and let adults step in and manage, you clearly have no clue what you are doing and should resign in disgrace for all the stupid and idiotic things you have done over the past year, This one takes the cake though, removing someone because you don’t like what they said at a public hearing. Thats what Communists and Nazis do to people they disagree with – try reading some history books to see, maybe you have and are following in their footsteps.

  • 2021-06-08 at 5:34 pm
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    Mr. Cross,
    You deserve apologies from the school board members and your principal. I hope they treat you respectfully. Please know, you know more than most of us. You are the expertise when it comes to children and the politics and propagandas they are being exposed too. No child should ever make a decision to change his/her gender until they are fully grown. Parents who are pursuing a sex change, identity change for their child/ren should be investigated for wrong doing. This is not parenting. Isn’t it bad enough the public school system is race baiting? Parents, teach your children they are born with a gender and they can make decisions on their own when they are fully grown adults. Teach them if they want to take on adult issues or activities they will be given adult responsibilities. Until they are out of your home and paying their own bills and are productive human beings…., than they can have sex, have babies, change their identity. etc. Be the parent, your CHILD needs you to be.

  • 2021-06-08 at 5:49 pm
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    I just hope everyone from here on out calls him Byron. His colleagues, his students, his bosses, the parents. Tanner is his preferred name but it is now my very strong belief that I don’t care about his preferences. So Byron it is. It is his birth name after all.

    This was a likely outcome since he didn’t actually violate a policy. But the first time he actually DOES deliberately misgender or dead name a child, I hope he is fired again. Because his bogus Christian faith here (and shame on Cornerstone Chapel for backing this — Jesus would stand with transgendered children, not Byron) won’t be a defense for actually violating a written policy.

    He has no business teaching children with that attitude.

    • 2021-06-08 at 10:41 pm
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      Every time you post a comment (biddaddyva), I think you cannot possibly be this obtuse. Then you post another one and top yourself.
      I’m sure Mr. Cross will have no problem if you want to call him Byron, after all, it is the name he was given at birth, just like those elementary school children were born a boy or a girl.
      Can you say you honestly believe children younger than 11 years of age can decide what gender they want to be? This only happens when parents overreact to a phase that just about every child goes through, where the girls want to play with and act like boys, and little boys get curious about their mom’s clothes or makeup. You know what happens 999 times out of 1,000 afterward? The kids move on to something else and eventually they grow up and into adulthood and can make up their own minds. Kids are being irreparably damaged by looney parents who are so sure that their little ones need to be treated specially that they demand everyone cave to the little kid’s “demand of the week”- when sane people know the kids will just change their minds back. Making kids live with, and identify with, a gender choice is ludicrous at their age.

      • 2021-06-09 at 10:15 am
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        Of course I can honestly say children younger than 11 can decide what gender they want to be. It’s not the parents who overreact, rather Byron. Byron is overreacting. The appropriate response is to tell a child, that’s nice, dear. And humor the child. Either the child is genuinely transgender or the child is just trying on an identity. In either case, the appropriate response is to go along with it rather than tell the child no, that’s wrong, you aren’t what you say you are. Because they are CHILDREN.

        There’s nothing in the Bible about transgender children. This “my faith” shield is bogus. Again, Byron and his ridiculous associates at Cornerstone don’t seem to understand how Jesus would react. Jesus would humor the child and stand WITH the child. Jesus would not say to a child, “No, son, you were born with a penis and you are a boy” if the child announces she is a girl.

        So what? None of this actually affects Byron. It doesn’t affect you. It is not Byron’s place to correct a child who makes an assertion like this. And invoking the Christian faith as a defense was a particularly offensive type of heresy.

  • 2021-06-08 at 7:04 pm
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    It’s hard to imagine how the Left finds itself being both Anti-Religion AND Anti-Science, yet here we are.

    • 2021-06-09 at 10:19 am
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      This doesn’t make any sense. Most people on the left are church-going. Jesus was a radical social justice warrior and His word is consistent with liberal beliefs.

      Science? Are you one of these people confusing sex with gender and prattling on about biology? Pro-tip: Gender and sex are different things, not interchangeable. And the “science” supports supporting children and adolescents struggling with this. See, e.g. work done by the European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence (ENIGI).

      • 2021-06-09 at 2:50 pm
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        Oh [duh], I nearly forgot Anti-Logic, Anti-Reason, Anti-Children and Anti-Education.

        Thank you for your comment. It crystallized the rest of my thought.

        • 2021-06-10 at 10:14 am
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          My dude. You’re the one who doesn’t believe children can identify as a gender that doesn’t match their genitalia but fervently believes Mary was impregnated by magic by some sky dude. Don’t talk to me about logic.

          • 2021-06-10 at 1:15 pm
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            Actually, you’re fabricating BOTH of your assertions. Nothing I’ve written would lead a reasonable, thoughtful person to your conclusion.

            When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, armed only with a shovel. Stop digging.

  • 2021-06-09 at 8:44 am
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    Maybe our insurrectionist supporting comments can break out their pocket constitutions and learn themselves something …….. ?

    The 1st A doesn’t protect one from the consequences of their free speech- you can lose your job for expressing your opinion (especially in Virginia)

    Any teacher who refuses to call a child by their preferred name has no place in a classroom.

    • 2021-06-10 at 10:40 am
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      The First Amendment absolutely protects you from retaliation by the government because of that speech.

    • 2021-06-10 at 1:17 pm
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      Why do you label EVERYONE who disagrees with your viewpoint an “insurrectionist?”

      Did somebody give you one of those word-a-day calendars?

  • 2021-06-09 at 9:19 am
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    This is another instance of our society trying to please everybody. You can’t. We used to be able to agree to disagree and get on with life. No more and it scares me .
    Let’s just educate, teach values, and have ramifications for bad behavior.
    And yes, kids can’t make gender decisions before they are educated adults. The parents that cater to these natural inclinations and investigations are the ones that should be held accountable. 8 year olds in social media talking about being transgender!
    OMG! It’s disgusting. Boys will play with dolls and girls will play football, it doesn’t mean they have gender issues! All I wanted to do was wear jeans before they even made jeans for girls! We went to Nichol’s Hardware to get me a pair to wear in the barn as there was nowhere else to find them! Lord and Taylor certainly didn’t!
    I am still a girl at 74 and I still wear jeans.

  • 2021-06-09 at 10:06 am
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    When there is a conflict between a teacher’s religious expression and that of a student, the government must take the student’s side to protect religious freedom. Gender is a religious expression (so says Tanner) and students express religious beliefs when they identify as transgender. What if the tables were reversed? If an atheist teacher publicly stated his religious views required him to mock children who pray before lunch or a game, would Tanner’s supporters demand that the teacher remain employed?

    • 2021-06-09 at 1:39 pm
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      There is no conflict…Yet. The LCPS Board has not voted and passed the policy.

      Since the policy is still a proposal what line as been crossed?

      That’s why Plowman ruled for Mr. Cross.

      • 2021-06-10 at 10:15 am
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        Yeah, I dare Byron to actually violate the policy when promulgated. Then he can be fired. And it will stick.

    • 2021-06-10 at 10:42 am
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      Tanner Cross is not mocking anybody. He just will not use incorrect pronouns for kids. And he will keep his job. There is nothing Leftists can do about it.

      • 2021-06-11 at 11:07 am
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        You keep using that word “leftist.” As if you think people will be frightened of it. Like you’re frightened of it. Because you are frightened of your shadow.

        This isn’t a “leftist” thing. Acceptance of preferred pronouns and transgendered people is a mainstream thing. People like you and Byron are the ones who are the extremists, going to great lengths to try to impose some weird sort of political correctness on the rest of us. You are obsessed about things that don’t directly affect you and get angry that some you don’t know’s child declares themselves non-binary. It’s ridiculously bizarre that this would anger you so. But whatever for you — you can live with that fear and anger and hate all you want. We can dismiss you as irrelevant and your viewpoints as invalid.

        But Byron? He had direct contact with children. And, again, the first time he actually acts in a way he promises to, he will should face disciplinary action again. And, if he violates a written policy, he should be suspended or fired again and publicly humiliated. He has no business teaching at all.

  • 2021-06-11 at 2:21 pm
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    Let’s review the controlling case law in the Fourth Circuit on this matter. In Durham v Jones, the Fourth Circuit stated “it is not enough that there is some disruption; the amount of disruption has to outweigh the importance of the speech and its concern to the public. See Connick, 461 U.S. at 152; see also McVey, 157 F.3d at 279 (Murnaghan, J., concurring) (“A stronger showing of public interest in the speech requires a concomitantly stronger showing of government-employer interest to overcome it.”).” 737 F.3d 291, 302 (4th Cir 2013)

    The notion that LCPS can fire an employee for speaking out at a public hearing on a matter concern is laughable. It is tantamount to saying that if enough fundamentalist Christian parents create a “disruption” about a radical LCPS teacher who claims she doesn’t believe in God and Christian delusions, then LCPS could fire the radical LCPS teacher for speaking out at public hearings (hello, Andrea Weiskopf). Nobody on the right is advocating that because they actually believe in free speech. But giving the Leftists veto power over anybody who expresses differences of opinion with their secular progressive religion (it is a religion) is not only unconstitutional, but it would precipitate much larger conflicts in our county and in our culture. The courts would never let this happen.

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