- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The school board of Loudoun County, Virginia, has agreed to a court settlement barring it from retaliating against a teacher for opposing the school system’s transgender policy.

The board agreed Monday to a permanent injunction in a lawsuit filed by physical education teacher Byron Tanner Cross, who was suspended in May after saying during a board meeting the proposed policy would violate his religious beliefs. A court ordered his reinstatement in June.

Under the settlement, the board must remove references to Mr. Cross’ suspension from his personnel file and pay $20,000 toward his attorneys’ fees. He is represented by Tyson Langhofer of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group.

“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, and they certainly shouldn’t be silenced from commenting at public meetings,” Mr. Langhofer said Monday in a statement.

Under the transgender policy, school employees would be required to address students using the personal pronouns they choose, not necessarily those corresponding with their birth sex.

Mr. Cross, a Christian, had said at a school board meeting in May 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.”

The Loudoun County Circuit Court issued an order shortly after the his lawsuit was filed requiring the school to reinstate Mr. Cross to his teaching position at Leesburg Elementary School while the litigation continued.

In August, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that his public comments did not cause a “significant disruption” to school operations that would warrant his suspension.

Mr. Cross is continuing his claims in his lawsuit over the transgender policy, which the school board approved 7-2 in August. The approval prompted two other teachers to join his suit.

The trio filed an amended complaint in mid-August seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the district from enforcing part of the “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students” policy. They say it violates their constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free speech.

The educators specifically take issue with a provision 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 complaint states that if the teachers are forced to comply, they would have to “communicate a message they believe is false — that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa.”

They suggest 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 has sent an email request for comment to Loudoun County Public Schools legal counsel Stacy Haney of Haney Phinyowattanachip PLLC.

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

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