Two more teachers will be allowed to join Leesburg Elementary School P.E. teacher Byron Cross’s lawsuit against the school system’s protections for transgender students following a hearing Thursday, Sept. 2.
The case’s trial date has also been pushed back, with a new date not yet set.
The Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amended complaint seeking to add Monica Gill, a history teacher at Loudoun County High School, and Kim Wright, a Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher to the lawsuit.
The Loudoun County School Board’s attorney Stacy Haney argued against that in a hearing Thursday afternoon, contending as she has previously that the complaint is not likely to survive a forthcoming demurrer seeking to have it thrown out. Haney argued that the government’s compelling interest to protect children—citing much higher suicide statistics among transgender students whose gender identify is not affirmed—outweighs the teacher’s interest in being able to call them by whichever gender the teacher perceives them to be. She also argued teachers’ freedom of speech must be assessed differently in the classroom, pointing to previous case law, compared to in public.
“What is at issue is how a teacher refers to their student, and that is very different from commenting on gender identity generally,” Haney said.
However attorneys Tyson Langhoffer and Ryan Bangert of the Alliance Defending Freedom maintained that the policy, which was mandated by a state law, forces those teachers to say things that go against their conscience and sincerely-held religious beliefs, and that their rights to freedom of speech and religion are violated by the school policy.
Circuit Court Judge Jim Plowman decided that the new plaintiffs would be allowed to join the case, and agreed with a request from the attorneys on both sides that the trial date be pushed back from Sept. 7-8. He did not agree to grant emergency injunctions for Gill and Wright akin to the injunction protecting Cross, who had been put on leave after his comments opposing the policy at a School Board meeting and subsequent outcry from Leesburg Elementary School parents. He had previously agreed to an injunction reinstating Cross. Neither Gill or Wright has been put on leave.
The conversation in the old Loudoun County courthouse was a wandering one at times, with Plowman and attorneys discussing the grammatical correctness of the singular “they,” whether a teacher could avoid using pronouns entirely in the classroom, and whether a teacher of a Romance language—languages that evolved from Latin such as French and Spanish, and which assign a gender to most or all nouns—could avoid doing so.