A gym teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia, has been suspended after he told school officials that he refuses to abide by a proposed policy that requires staff to call transgender students by their pronouns.
Byron Tanner Cross told Loudoun County Public School board members at a meeting last Tuesday that the policy violates his Christian beliefs.
“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Mr. Cross said. “I 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.”
On Thursday, he received a letter saying he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
School system spokesman Wayde Byard confirmed in an email Tuesday that Mr. Cross is on administrative leave.
“State and federal confidentiality laws regarding personnel records prohibit Loudoun County Public Schools [LCPS] from saying anything other than Mr. Cross is on paid administrative leave,” Mr. Byard said.
The draft of the policy at issue is called “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.”
The proposal states that “LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian legal group, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against LCPS officials after they refused the group’s request for Mr. Cross to be reinstated.
“The school board’s actions violated the Virginia Constitution when it punished Cross by retaliating against him for expressing his beliefs in a public forum, and also violated his free exercise of religion by discriminating against his religious beliefs,” according to an ADF press release.
The 17-page lawsuit filed in Loudoun County Circuit Court seeks Mr. Cross’ immediate reinstatement. Moreover, ADF wants a judge to issue a preliminary injunction to bar officials from enforcing policies that prohibit or punish Mr. Cross for “expressing his views on proposed gender-identity education policy.”
The situation has garnered attention from politicians, parents and a pastor.
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, called on the school system to reinstate Mr. Cross during an interview Monday on Fox News.
“What we’re seeing right here right now in Loudoun County is the liberal left waging a cultural war and the victims are children. And who’s standing up for them? Not the politicians but in fact parents and teachers,” Mr. Youngkin said.
The gubernatorial hopeful said it is “absolutely shameful” that the school board “invited such a discussion and now they are trying to cancel him simply for expressing his views that are in the best interest of the children and expressing his faith.”
A group of local parents last week issued an email stating that the school board “rolled” another teacher under the bus “in order to please their activist base.”
The parents, who are part of a recently formed political action committee called Fight for Schools, have been at odds with the nine-member school board for months. They recently launched a petition to oust six of board members who they say are “infecting” schools with critical race theory — a claim that LCPS denies.
Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick of Cornerstone Chapel, the Leesburg church that Mr. Cross attends, told his congregation Sunday that he supports recalling the board members and reinstating Mr. Cross.
“They are emotionally abusing our children by perpetuating the lie about gender confusion when they affirm pronouns that are contrary to biology, reality, and the beautiful design of God,” Mr. Hamrick said. “So they need to be held accountable and it’s time to step up.”
A video of the service shows congregation members applauding the pastor’s comments.
Meanwhile, the Loudoun County Democratic Party is calling on Mr. Hamrick to recant the “inflammatory and insidious remarks.”
“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of such rhetoric, having witnessed a recent rise in threats to the safety of the Loudoun School Board members,” the party said Sunday in a press release. “Furthermore, this irresponsible accusation of child abuse minimizes and tarnishes the people and organizations that seek to protect our children.”
Mr. Hamrick told ABC7-TV on Monday that he will not recant his statements and that he believes the school board members should refrain from involvement in subjects that are “God ordained.”
“My beef with the school board is I wish they would just stick with reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Mr. Hamrick said. “When they get into issues of sexuality and gender identity they are actually moving into a lane that I feel like is our lane as a church because those are God ordained subjects.”