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ADF to VA Supreme Court: Lower Court Correct to Vindicate Teacher’s Free Speech Rights

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Leesburg Elementary School teacher Tanner Cross filed a brief with the Virginia Supreme Court Wednesday in response to his school district’s appeal of a lower court’s order reinstating him to his teaching position.

Cross filed suit after officials suspended him for voicing his objections to a proposed policy during the public comment period of a May 25 school board meeting. The lower court ruled that the school’s actions were likely unconstitutional.

The proposed policy discussed at the May school board meeting would force teachers to violate their conscience as educators and their deeply held beliefs by requiring them to address “gender-expansive and transgender” elementary students with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex.

“Public schools have no right to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “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. The school district wants to force Tanner to endorse its ideals and shut down any opposing views. That violates the Constitution and laws of Virginia, and so did the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”

At the school board meeting, Cross respectfully explained his concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria and also his concern about being forced to speak something he knows to be false and to violate his beliefs. Two days after the meeting, the school board informed Cross in a letter that he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”

As the reply brief in Loudoun County School Board v. Cross filed in the Virginia Supreme Court explains, the trial court correctly found that Cross “was likely to prevail on the merits and that all other factors for temporary relief favored Cross.”

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