The school board in Loudoun County, Virginia, has agreed to a permanent injunction and to pay $20,000 to settle claims brought by teacher Tanner Cross, who was punished by officials for expressing his Christian worldview in a public meeting.
An announcement Monday from Alliance Defending Freedom said the injunction permanently prohibits the Loudoun County School Board from retaliating against Cross for expressing “his constitutionally protected views on the board’s transgender policy.”
The agreement is a permanent resolution of protection obtained by Cross earlier when a county circuit court granted his request for preliminary relief against retaliation, which was affirmed by the state Supreme Court.
He had publicly objected at a public school-board meeting to then then-proposed Policy 8040, which forces teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address “transgender and gender-expansive” students by their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex.
The board also agreed to remove any reference to the suspension it imposed on Cross from his personnel file and pay $20,000 toward legal fees.
The overall case, however, continues, as history teacher Monica Gill and English teacher Kim Wright were added as clients alongside Cross, and their claims against the board remain.
“Teachers shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false, and they certainly shouldn’t be silenced from commenting at public meetings,” said Tyson Langhofer, a lawyer. “While we are very pleased that Tanner will be able to keep serving his students in light of this settlement, the concerns expressed in our ongoing lawsuit challenging the district’s policy remain. 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. That’s why our lawsuit asks the court to protect the constitutional rights of our clients by immediately halting enforcement of this harmful school district policy.””
The court complaint on behalf of the teachers charged if they were forced to follow the board’s demands, “they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa. But if they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe—that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires.”
Daily Caller News Foundation explained earlier that the school board voted on a revised professional conduct policy to specifically mention “Protected Speech” and the First Amendment rights of employees.
The new policy is a response to Cross, whose comments went viral when he opposed the district’s transgender promotions.
That proposed trans policy later was adopted, and purports to demand that staff use student-chosen pronouns regardless of their accuracy.
The state Supreme Court also had sided with Cross, affirming a lower court’s decision to reinstate him from the school’s suspension.
The lower court had ruled Cross’ suspension was likely unconstitutional as it was because of his speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. The school then appealed to the high court.
The trial court judge had ruled, “The court finds that the plaintiff’s speech and religious content are central to the determination made by the defendants to suspend plaintiff’s employment. Defendants shall immediately reinstate the plaintiff to his position as it was prior to the issuance of this suspension and remove the ban that was placed upon him from all buildings and grounds of Loudoun County Public Schools.”
The judge noted that any loss of First Amendment freedoms, “for even minimal periods of time,” is “irreparable,” and that “similarly situated employees” in the district already have been “chilled from speech” because of the administrators’ actions.
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