An elementary school physical education teacher in Virginia has been placed on administrative leave after voicing his opposition to the school district’s new transgender-affirming policies during a May 25 Loudoun County school board meeting.
During the meeting, Byron “Tanner” Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary School and devout Christian, said he was “speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria.”
“I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences,” he explained. “I’m a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion. It’s lying to a child; it’s abuse to a child; and it’s sinning against our God.”
To back up his claims, Cross referenced a recent “60 Minutes” segment in which more than 30 former transgender youth were interviewed about their decisions to de-transition.
“I didn’t get enough pushback on transitioning,” a young man named Garrett from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told “60 Minutes.” “I went for two appointments, and after the second one, I had my letter to go get on cross-sex hormones.”
Two days after the school board meeting, Cross was informed via letter that he had been put on paid administrative leave—pending an investigation into allegations that he had engaged in disruptive conduct against the elementary school.
In response, religious liberty law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) promptly sent a letter to Loudoun County Public Schools on Cross’ behalf, stating that the school’s decision to suspend Cross is unconstitutional.
“Immediately suspending an employee and launching an investigation for engaging in First Amendment-protected expression, creates an atmosphere of fear and is intended to send a message to Mr. Cross and other teachers that they must toe the line or face the consequences …,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer explained in the letter. “The First Amendment does not countenance such retaliation. We demand that you immediately (1) rescind the suspension, (2) reinstate Mr. Cross so that he can return to class on Tuesday, June 1, (3) remove the suspension letter from his file, and (4) refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech.”
But according to ADF, the school “doubled down,” stating that it intends to stand by its decision.
On June 1, ADF filed a lawsuit against school district officials.
“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, but it’s beyond the pale to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting, which is what such meetings are designed for,” said Langhofer, also the director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology. The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well. That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”
Meanwhile, Franklin Graham was among those voicing support for Cross.
“It is hard to believe we are having this debate in our schools,” Franklin said on Facebook. “I thank Mr. Cross for standing with the Word of God and living out his religious convictions—and I hope parents and the community will rise up and let this school board know that they don’t want him suspended or punished for telling the truth.”
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom