A Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge granted a temporary injunction reinstating a suspended Leesburg Elementary School teacher who had said publicly he would not refer to transgender students by their chosen names or pronouns.
Circuit Court Judge Jim Plowman Jr. issued his decision to reinstate Byron “Tanner” Cross in a June 8 opinion, following a three-hour hearing on Friday.
The case has garnered nationwide attention following Cross’ suspension.
“The court finds that the plaintiff’s speech and religious continent are central to the determination made by the defendants to suspend plaintiff’s employment,” Plowman said in his opinion.
“The court further found that the weight of the evidence and the totality of the circumstances, show that the four prongs for issuance of temporary injunction have been satisfied,” he said in his seven-page opinion.
“We’re so happy,” Cross said Tuesday afternoon during an interview on Fox News.
“There’s lots of tears, lots of hugs,” he said. “We’re just happy that we were reinstated, and I look forward to going back to serving Leesburg Elementary.”
Cross said he did not accept any science to suggest gender identity can change. However, he said he would call a child by their desired name.
“I just can’t say things that are untrue,” he said.
Wayde Byard, public information officer for the school system, told the Times-Mirror in an email that Loudoun County Public Schools has no comment on the judge’s decision.
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor, called on the school system last week to reinstate Cross. He tweeted Tuesday that he was pleased to hear about Tuesday’s decision.
“A person’s religious beliefs should not be a reason to be canceled from a job,” Youngkin said in the tweet. “I’m glad to see that the judge ruled in favor of Tanner Cross. This is a win for religious freedom.”
Cross, who has been employed by LCPS for eight years, made the remarks during the public comment portion of the May 25 school board meeting, challenging the school system’s draft Policy 8040, “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.”
Cross said he would “not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa,” citing his Christian faith as his reasoning.
“I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of consequences,” he said to school board members.
Judge Plowman heard arguments for three hours on Friday.
Tyson Langhofer, an attorney representing Cross, told the judge, “this is a case about what makes democracy possible,” arguing that the school system was wrong to suspend his client based on his religious beliefs.
Stacy Haney, an attorney representing the school system, however, argued that “the action was based on interference of operation” — that is, that Cross’ actions disrupted the educational setting — and not on his beliefs. She also presented testimony from school officials that the teacher’s remarks had an adverse impact on the school and the system.
Judge Plowman asked Haney how the court is to weigh the level of disruption.
In a later response, Haney pointed to five parents who had contacted school officials by email requesting Cross have no engagement with their children. One such response came from a transgender parent.
“That is not sufficient for disruption,” Langhofer said in a response to Haney’s reasoning.
The attorneys agreed that there are about 391 students in the elementary school.
Earlier in the hearing, the judge denied Haney’s motion challenging the lack of process for the emergency hearing. Haney said she her clients were not notified with a summons, but was instead directed to two law cases, the clerk’s seal on the documents and case number assigned to the proceeding.
After the hearing, Cross met with supporters at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, where he is a parishioner.
“Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy,” said Michael Farris, CEO and President of Alliance Defending Freedom, in a prepared statement.
“For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues,” he said.
He added, “educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express” and that advocating for solutions they believe in “should not cost them their jobs.”
Farris said the school system’s decision was neither legal nor constitutional.
“Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect,” he said. As part of the judge’s decision, Plowman ordered that the LCPS immediately reinstate Cross to his position and remove the ban that was placed upon him from all buildings and grounds of Loudoun County Public Schools.
Langhofer said he believes Cross will be able to retain his job after the injunction ends on Dec. 31. He said the law and the facts are clear, and that the school board rushed to judgment.
“They punished Tanner simply because a few parents disagreed with Tanner’s views, and that’s not how it should be,” Langhofer said.
“Schools are very diverse, and we should be able to live together and have our diverse views, and teachers shouldn’t be punished simply for sharing those views in a public forum,” he said.
Plowman directed both parties to schedule a trial no later than June 16.