Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys are seeking to amend a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public Schools, asking the court to immediately suspend a newly adopted policy that addresses the treatment and common issues pertaining to transgender students in elementary and secondary schools, according to an Aug. 16 release.
The ADF on Monday filed an amended complaint seeking to add two teachers, Monica Gill, who teaches history at Loudoun County High School, and Kim Wright, who teaches English at Smart’s Mill Middle School, to a lawsuit filed in June on behalf of Byron “Tanner” Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher. Cross was suspended after stating during the public comment portion of a School Board meeting that he would not refer to transgender students by their chosen names or pronouns.
Pending the court’s approval, the teachers seek to join the suit, which is scheduled to be heard in the Loudoun County Circuit Court on Sept. 7 and 8, a suit in which Cross claims that the school division violated his constitutional rights by suspending him.
A point of contention among detractors of Loudoun’s Policy 8040 is language that allows students to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their consistently asserted gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, in a prepared statement.
“Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and is compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment,” he said. “Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job. Freedom—of speech and religious exercise—includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs.”
The Loudoun County School Board adopted the policy on Aug. 11 with a 7-2 vote. Board members Jeff Morse and John Beatty voted against the policy.
The policy also allows transgender students access to a number of student activities and facilities, such as using the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their consistently asserted gender identity.
Further, the policy states that all school mental health professionals shall complete training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
According to the amended suit, complying with the school board’s demands would force the teachers to communicate a message they believe is false.
Langhofer said the filing of the amended complaint could affect when the case is heard by the court. The case is currently scheduled to be heard in September.
“I just think that it’s important that all teachers and parents understand that this lawsuit is designed to protect the rights of all teachers and all students so that they’re not forced to speak messages they disagree with,” Langhofer said to the Times-Mirror.
“This isn’t just related to teachers that agree with Monica and Kim and Tanner,” he said. “So, I think it’s something that everybody should care about because teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that they believe are harmful to their students.”
Cris Candice Tuck, president of Equality Loudoun, said the ADF’s attempt to suspend enforcement of Policy 8040 is a lost cause considering the Virginia Department of Education’s “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” was upheld by the courts.
Tuck pointed to a July 21 case in which a Lynchburg Circuit Court judge dismissed a legal challenge seeking to block VDOE’s policies.
“I’m not a legal expert, but I would find it hard to believe that a judge is going to look at Policy 8040 directly and overturn that when they didn’t overturn the VDOE policy, which is the precedent it was based on,” Tuck said.
“And especially since there are no specific complaints that I’m aware of about Policy 8040, since it just got instituted. It’s not as if there is even a chance for there to be some sort of complaint or issue,” he said.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Wayde Byard, public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools, said the school division does not comment on pending litigation.
On June 8, Circuit Court Judge Jim Plowman Jr. issued a temporary injunction reinstating Cross following a three-hour hearing on June 4.
In the days following the injunction, Loudoun County Public Schools filed an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court, challenging Plowman’s decision to reinstate Cross. The court is still reviewing the appeal of the injunction.
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.
Following his remarks to the School Board on May 25, Cross said on Fox News that he would refer to a child by their desired name, but reiterated that he would not use a student’s desired pronouns, saying “I just can’t say things that are untrue.”