RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the reinstatement of a northern Virginia gym teacher who said he would not refer to transgender students by their pronouns .
Loudoun County Public Schools appealed to the state Supreme Court after a judge ruled the school system violated teacher Tanner Cross’s free speech rights by suspending him after he ‘he spoke at a school board meeting.
Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, cited his religious beliefs at a board meeting in May where the school board debated proposed changes to its policies regarding the treatment of transgender students. . Cross said he will not use the pronouns of transgender students.
School boards statewide have revised their policies to more include transgender students in accordance with new state law. But Loudoun County, outside of the nation’s capital, has been a particular flashpoint in the debate not only about transgender students, but also how students learn about racism and race relations.
The school system said it suspended Cross in part because his comments disrupted the school. But lower court judge James Plowman and the state Supreme Court agreed that the handful of appeals received by school administrators had not caused the kind of disruption that warranted a suspension.
Tuesday’s decision leaves a temporary injunction in place that bars the school system from suspending Cross. A trial is scheduled for next week in Loudoun County to finally settle the issue.
Since Cross filed his complaint in May, two other teachers from Loudoun County have joined him as complainants.