RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering the reinstatement of a Northern Virginia physical education teacher who said he would not use the pronouns they use to refer to transgender students.
Loudoun County Public Schools appealed to the state Supreme Court after a judge ruled that the school system violated teacher Tanner Cross’ freedom of expression by suspending him after speaking at a school committee meeting.
Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary, quoted his religious beliefs at a board meeting in May where the school board discussed proposed changes to its policies on treating transgender students. Cross said he wouldn’t use the pronouns used by transgender students.
School authorities across the state have revised their guidelines to include transgender students more closely under a new state law. But Loudoun County, outside the country’s capital, has been a particular focal point in the debate not only about transgender students, but also about how students learn about racism and racial relations.
The school system said it partially suspended Cross because his comments caused disruption in the school. But lower court judge James Plowman and the state Supreme Court agreed that the handful of calls from school administrators did not cause the kind of disturbance that warranted a suspension.
Tuesday’s ruling leaves an injunction in force preventing the school system from suspending Cross. A trial in Loudoun County is planned for next week to permanently resolve the problem.
Since Cross filed his lawsuit in May, two other Loudoun County teachers have joined him as plaintiffs.
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