- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2021

Three teachers want a judge to order the Loudoun County Public Schools district to halt enforcement of a new policy that requires staff to use transgender students’ pronouns while a lawsuit challenging the rule plays out. 

The trio filed a motion last week in Loudoun County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the district, just days before the scheduled first day of school — this Friday.

They argue the Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students policy approved earlier this month by the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board violates their constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free speech.

The group specifically takes issue with part of the policy that states “staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their consistently asserted gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record.”

The educators, who have identified themselves as Christian, say their “understanding of both biology and their faith requires them to use pronouns consistent with a person’s biological sex” and not doing so “would be lying.”

“Plaintiffs believe that God creates each person as male or female; that the two distinct and complementary sexes reflect the image of God; and that adopting a gender identity inconsistent with sex rejects God’s image and design for a person and does harm to that person,” the 21-page motion filed on Friday states.

Unless the court temporarily halts enforcement of the policy, the teachers say they will be forced to “violate their deeply held religious beliefs by speaking and affirming falsehoods.”

They suggested a “less-restrictive” form of the policy, in which they would adhere to student requests to call them by a certain name or to not use certain pronouns.

The Washington Times sent email requests for comment on Monday to LCPS legal counsel Stacy Haney and Andrew Selman of Haney Phinyowattanachip PLLC.

The educators are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal nonprofit that filed the original lawsuit in June on behalf of elementary school gym teacher Byron Tanner Cross, who was suspended after speaking out against the then-proposed policy at a school board meeting.

During the public comment period, Mr. Cross said that he “will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”

Mr. Cross was placed on paid administrative leave “pending an investigation,” but Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr. granted a temporary injunction on June 8 requiring the school district to immediately reinstate the teacher while his lawsuit continues.

“The plaintiff’s interest in expressing his First Amendment speech outweighs the defendants’ interest in restricting the same,” Judge Plowman wrote.

High school history teacher Monica Gill and middle school English teacher Kim Wright asked to join the Virginia suit shortly after the school board approved the rule in a 7-2 vote on Aug. 5.

The policy also permits students to participate in sports and use facilities based on gender identity.

LCPS board members say it was established to adhere to state legislation passed last year requiring Virginia school boards to adopt policies on the treatment of transgender students by the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The law stems from a federal court ruling in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, which found prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms based on gender identity amounts to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX and the equal protection clause.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane sent a memo to Virginia schools in July directing them to adopt policies on the treatment of transgender students or face “all legal responsibility for noncompliance.”

“While no state funding is tied to this legislative mandate, noncompliance may still be costly for local school boards due to civil litigation or other associated liabilities,” Mr. Lane warned.

He told school boards to consult with legal counsel and liability insurance providers regarding the potential ramifications for not adopting the policies.

One district that has balked at adopting the rules, Newport News, is meeting on Thursday to hear a new presentation on the transgender rules. The meeting comes after the school board voted 5-1 last week to reject the proposed changes.

The debate over transgender student rights is roiling state legislatures and school boards across the country. 

Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee approved laws this year banning transgender students from participating in public school sports that coincide with their gender identity. At least 20 other state legislatures are considering similar legislation, The Associated Press reported.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, also signed a bill requiring school districts to notify parents before students are taught curriculum on sexual orientation or gender identity, and to let parents opt the student out of the lessons.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide