A Leesburg Elementary School teacher has been placed on leave after telling the Loudoun County School Board he would not refer to transgender students by their chosen names or pronouns.
Physical education teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross is on paid administrative leave as of Thursday, Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard said Friday in an email to The Times-Mirror.
"I'm contacting you to let you know that one of our physical education teachers, Tanner Cross, is on leave beginning this morning," LES Principal Shawn Lacy said in a Thursday email to parents.
The email continued, "I wanted you to know this because it may affect your student's school routine. Because this involves a personnel matter, I can offer no further information."
Cross addressed School Board members during the public comment portion of the board’s Tuesday meeting, saying he "will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa."
"It's not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths we must face when ready," Cross said.
Loudoun County School Board just put a school teacher on administrative leave for stating he would not teach LGBTQ because it violates his Christian principles. pic.twitter.com/QCwzIYdNNw— Michael S. Miller (@imichaelsmiller) May 27, 2021
He criticized the school system's draft Policy 8040, "Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students," which the School Board's Pupil Services Committee is in the process of drafting.
The draft policy says "LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence."
Cross said such a policy "will damage children and defile the holy image of God."
"I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences," he said.
The P.E. teacher said the act of referring to transgender students by chosen pronouns is child abuse and an act of "lying."
Language nearly identical to that in draft Policy 8040 was previously proposed for LCPS Policy 1040, "Equal Opportunity for Equitable, Safe and Inclusive Environment."
The School Board's Equity Committee drafted two versions of that policy. "Version A" stated that "staff shall, at the request of an adult student or parent/guardian, address the student using the asserted name and pronoun."
On January 14, the School Board voted to adopt "Version B” of Policy 1040, which makes no mention of gender pronouns or asserted names, though it does govern staff behavior related to gender issues.
The adopted policy prohibits “[d]emeaning or otherwise harmful actions” on the basis of "sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression," among other characteristics.
Byard would not confirm whether LCPS placed Cross on leave because he was found to be in violation of school system policy.
Draft Policy 8040 was written in response to Virginia House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161, which are identical pieces of legislation.
Those bills require school boards in the commonwealth to adopt "policies that are consistent with … model policies developed by the [Virginia] Department of Education" no later than the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
VDOE model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students in Virginia elementary and secondary schools were made available to school boards last year.
Per HB 145 and SB 161, those model policies were written "in accordance with evidence-based best practices" and in "compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws."
The Pupil Services committee was scheduled to discuss draft Policy 8040 on May 20 but did not do so due to time constraints, according to the meeting minutes.
Attempts to reach Cross on Friday morning were unsuccessful.