A Virginia school district placed a teacher on paid administrative leave after he spoke against a proposed policy that would have faculty refer to students using pronouns based on what aligns with the students’ gender identity.
Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, spoke out against the “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students” policy at a May 25 Loudoun County Public Schools board meeting.
Cross said the policy would go against his religious beliefs and was “speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.”
He spoke of a recent “60 Minutes” episode that featured a segment about young people who identified as transgender individuals and then changed their minds.
“It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready,” Cross said. “I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. 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 my child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”
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Two days after the board meeting, Cross was sent a letter that he was being placed on paid administrative leave for “allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.” The letter, signed by interim assistant superintendent Lucia Sebastian, was released by Cross’ attorney, Tyson Langhofer.
In a May 28 letter to Sebastian, Langhofer demanded that Cross’ suspension be rescinded, he be reinstated, his suspension be removed from his file and that Cross would be protected from any retaliation.
“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,” part of the letter to Sebastian read.
“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,” Langhofer said in a statement.
Cross did not immediately respond to USA TODAY requests for comment. A Loudoun County Public School spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY that Cross is still on leave, but didn’t comment further.
“State and federal law regarding the confidentiality of personnel records limits what we can say regarding this matter. I can say that Mr. Cross is on administrative leave with pay,” the spokesperson said.
The district has been subject to scrutiny in recent months by community members who believe it is pushing racial and LGBTQ ideas into the classrooms, which has resulted in an effort to recall six board members, according to Fox Washington D.C.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.