LEESBURG, Va.—A group of Loudoun County parents rallied on Friday evening in support of elementary school P.E. teacher Tanner Cross, who was put on leave following his remarks at a school board meeting about a proposed transgender policy.
The rally for Cross followed his hearing at Loudoun County Court, where he had hoped to secure an emergency injunction allowing him to return to teaching as soon as possible. Cross, who has taught in Loudoun County Public Schools for eight years, voiced his opposition to proposed policies that would require teachers to use student’s preferred pronouns at a school board meeting on May 25. Two days later, he was placed on administrative leave.
"When I spoke I was thinking about my values, my students, my parents, and my fellow teachers," Cross said at the rally. "The truth is I am not alone. Many of us are concerned that proposed policies would harm students and require us to violate our beliefs by saying things that are not true."
Several parents told the Washington Free Beacon that they attended the rally to support Cross and voice their disgust for the school board.
"We believe that Tanner took a stand for what the Bible says, that God made them male and female. And it doesn’t get any more complicated than that," Jim Supp, a pastor at Reston Bible Church, said. "To tell an elementary student that if you’re in a boy’s body, you can be a girl, or if you’re in a girl’s body, you can be a boy, that’s just not true."
Stacy Haney, the county’s representative for the case, said that Cross’s actions had caused a major disruption, warranting the suspension. She presented several emails in court from parents who said they did not want their children interacting with Cross anymore. The county also banned Cross from LCPS property. Furthermore, Haney pointed to new Virginia legislation passed last year that mandates public schools to implement policies for transgender students.
A district spokesman said the school system does not comment on pending litigation.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro bono religious liberty firm, said the county is violating Cross’s rights as an American and a Virginian and that he spoke at the school board meeting as a private citizen.
"When Loudoun County Public Schools suspended Tanner they crossed a line, and that’s why we took LCPS to court," Tyson Langhofer, Cross’s attorney, said. "Tanner’s case is about the right of every American to speak freely without the fear of punishment. Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express beliefs that they don’t hold."
"If we win, this will continue to reinforce the law that has been there for a long time. But if we lose, it means something: it’s a sea change in the law," Langhofer told the Free Beacon. "It would say to school districts across the country that you can punish teachers who simply voice their opinions in a public forum, and that’s completely contrary to everything the First Amendment stands for."
Shawntel Cooper, who went viral for likening critical race theory to Nazism earlier this year, and Phuong S. are mothers who moved to Loudoun County for their kids. Phuong, who left Maryland because of its Common Core initiatives, said that Loudoun’s education system was quickly becoming a "façade." Both want to stay in Virginia, but Phuong has already pulled her kids out of the school system.
"Last year really sped it up," Phuong said, referring to the district's increasing adoption of woke ideology. "It’s always been in the works, I’m sure."
"If you would have asked me five years ago how I felt about Loudoun County, raising kids here, sending them to school here, I would have said it was the most amazing place in the U.S. to raise a kid and send them to school," Sharon Supp, a lawyer and mother of two LCPS students said.
Cooper faces a similar challenge. "Right now my kids are virtual. I don’t even know if I’m going to let them go back to hybrid because I can hear what’s going on," she said.
Judge James Plowman said he expects to issue a decision on Cross's case Monday.
Update June 8, 9:43 a.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect a name change.