Richmond, Va., Jul 1, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).
Tanner Cross, a Virginia Elementary School teacher, filed a brief in the Virginia Supreme Court on Wednesday in response to an appeal by his school district against a court order reinstating him to his teaching position.
“The lower court’s decision ordering Tanner’s reinstatement was a well-reasoned application of these facts to clearly established law, so there is no reason for the Virginia Supreme Court to take this appeal,” Tyson Langhofer, ADF senior counsel, said June 30.
ADF’s brief endorses the trial court’s decision that Cross “was likely to prevail on the merits and that all other factors for temporary relief favored” him.
Cross was placed on paid administrative leave by the Loudoun County Public School district May 27. He had objected to two proposed school policies during a public comment session of a May 25 school board meeting.
The proposed policies would require that students be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex.
In its decision to suspend Cross, the school district cited “allegations that [Cross] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
Cross was forbidden from accessing school property and attending school-sponsored events.
The school district cited six emails from five families of students asking that their children not be taught by Cross, as evidence for his disruption to school operations.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cross, saying that the district engaged in “viewpoint-based retaliation” in suspending him. Cross’ opinions were based upon his “sincerely held religious beliefs” about gender, the lawsuit stated.
The court found last month that, in balancing Cross’ free speech rights with the school board’s claims that his speech was disruptive, Cross’ interests outweighed the board’s. Cross’ “speech and religious content” were “central” to his suspension, the court ruled.
The court granted Cross a temporary injunction against the school’s action, and required the school to reinstate him and allow him access to school property.
Judge James Plowman Jr. of the Loudoun County Circuit Court called the suspension an “unconstitutional action.” Plowman added that “it is clear the Plaintiff was speaking as a citizen, not in his official capacity,” on a “matter of public concern.”
“The school district wants to force Tanner to endorse its ideals and shut down any opposing views,” Langhofer said. “That violates the Constitution and laws of Virginia, and so did the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”