School district doubles down on decision to punish teacher for his speech

Byron Tanner Cross (Video screenshot)

Officials at a school district near Washington, D.C., have decided to double down on their attempt to punish a teacher for opposing their plans to promote transgenderism in class, announcing on Friday they will appeal a court’s order to reinstate him.

Fox News said Loudoun County Public Schools said it will appeal the order that teacher Tanner Cross be reinstated.

In a statement from the district, officials insisted, “Leesburg Elementary School and Loudoun County Public Schools experienced – and continue to experience – significant disruption since the May 25 School Board meeting during which Cross addressed the board. Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school. Addressing those concerns is paramount to the school division’s goal to provide a safe, welcoming, and affirming learning environment for all students. While LCPS respects the rights of public-school employees to free speech and free exercise of religion, those rights do not outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment.”

They said they are going to the state Supreme Court with their agenda.

It was only days ago that Judge James E. Plowman Jr. found there was little evidence of any “disruption,” with only a handful of emails – at the time.

Cross had spoken out during May as the board was considering new requirements that would accommodate and promote the transgender agenda. He said as a Christian he could not do that.

He was suspended within 24 hours, when the school claimed his comments caused a “disruption.”

Plowman said, “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 injunction controlling the school district’s actions is to remain until the end of 2021, unless the fight is resolved earlier during a trial on the issues.

The judge found that the Cross was speaking as a citizen, and on a matter of public concern, and that there was “no actual disruption to school operations” because of his comments.

Further, 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.

“Enjoining a retaliatory suspension will not serve to harm the defendants,” the judge said. “Further, it will serve to restore, to some degree, the reputation of the plaintiff that may have been harmed by defendants’ actions.”

The judge noted that the district even told the “community” by email of its actions against the teacher and that action was “an unnecessary and vindictive act.”

Michael Farris, chief of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is working on Cross’ behalf, said, “Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy. For that reason, we are pleased at the court’s decision to halt Loudoun County Public Schools’ retaliation against Tanner Cross while his lawsuit continues.

“Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs. School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. That’s neither legal nor constitutional. Dozens of other teachers have shared their beliefs on various policies without retaliation; Tanner deserves to be treated with the same respect.”

The school’s actions already have disrupted the community, with members of the local Democratic Party demanding that a local church pastor recant his support for the teacher’s biblical stand.

WJLA reported the county’s Democrat leadership was targeting Pastor Gary Hamrick of Cornerstone Chapel.

He backed an effort to recall six Loudoun County school board members who were part of the attack on Cross.

He told his congregation, “We’ve got to take back our schools. What are we to do, just throw our arms up, surrender? And allow our kids to be taken over by liberal Marxist ideology?”

He cited the fight facing Cross, who with his wife attends the church.

“Friends, this is now where we are. Jesus calls us to occupy until he comes. Part of occupying is to be what Jesus tells us to be which is salt and light.”

He said the application of those substances sometimes is “very uncomfortable.”

But he said, “to be passive is to be complicit.”

He said his church was allowing petition signature gatherers to ask people to sign petitions to recall the six board members who are responsible for being “troublesome.”

“Some of the them are not doing their duty, to protect” children, he said.

They are “subjecting them to sexually explicit materials … they are already talking about racially divisive material, emotionally abusing our children.”

The pastor’s description of the case is at about the 30-minute mark here:

Lissa Savaglio, the chief of the county’s Democrat Party, had accused the pastor of having dangerous opinions.

“Child abuse is a crime. And for him to go up and accuse our school board members of that, I think it is dangerous,” she charged.

She said board members were “already receiving death threats,” the report said.

Cross has taught at Leesburg Elementary School for several years, but was suspended after he exercised his First Amendment rights to comment on the proposed school policies at a school board meeting.

The policies at issue “would force teachers to violate their conscience as educators and their deeply held beliefs by requiring them to address students with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex,” the ADF legal team argues.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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