The Loudoun County School Board accepted a settlement overturning disciplinary action against Leesburg Elementary School teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross on Monday, as Alliance Defending Freedom legal teams and the school board pleaded in court to see if a transgender policy of the LCPS should be maintained.

A senior ADF attorney said school officials accepted a permanent injunction forbidding them from punishing Cross for anything he said about the policy until it was taken to court Monday morning. The school board also agreed to remove the disciplinary action related to Cross’s personnel file policy and pay $ 20,000 in attorney fees.

Cross said in remarks outside the courthouse after the hearing that “no government can force its citizens to say things they disagree with. This is especially true in schools, where ideas must be fiercely protected, both for freedom and for truth. “

But most of the audience was dominated by arguments for and against the 8040 policy.

Loudoun County Public School teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross speaks to reporters on November 15 outside the Loudoun County courthouse in Leesburg.

ADF lawyers, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Cross and other LCPS teachers Monica Gill and Kimberly Wright, argued that the transgender student policy was an affront to their clients’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religious expression and that it flouted their due. processing rights.

The ADF legal team said the transgender student policy and “what we call the ‘mandate of pronouns’ violates the Virginia Constitution because it tramples on free speech and religious expression.” Adherence to politics, they argued, would have gone against the religious beliefs of Wright, who “wants to make sure his conscience is not violated.”

The ADF attorney also said Wright was at risk of receiving a complaint for failing to follow the policy “any day” and that clients had reason to fear punitive action by the school board for. their refusal to use names or pronouns claimed by transgender students.

But Stacey Haney, who has advocated on behalf of the school board, said the First Amendment protections to speech do not have the same reach when applied to public employees using speech in the line of duty.

“Mr. Cross goes to a school board meeting and speaks during the public comment – it’s a matter of public interest,” Haney said. But according to the Supreme Court precedent set by Garcetti against Ceballos, “any speech given in the course of official teaching duties – it is not a matter of public interest”.

Haney said that in the context of the pursuit of ADF customers, the teacher’s speech is a speech rather than a mainstream speech. In a classroom, the teachers’ speech is sponsored by the school and carries the imprimatur of the school, while being designed by the faculty and designed to impart knowledge. These two factors involving teachers’ discourse in the classroom delimit it as a program, she said.

Arguing against the claim that ADF clients face an “imminent threat” to their job security, Haney said that “the notice was given on September 27 and it is now mid-November. “. Given the time that has elapsed since the policy was implemented and the messages advising LCPS staff of its required use, Haney rejected the due process requests as they are not likely to go to court.

Cross was put on leave two days after he said at a school board meeting on May 25 that he would not comply with draft policy 8040 at the time. The ADF filed a lawsuit against the school board on its behalf on June 1. Gill and Wright were granted permission to join Cross in a modified lawsuit against the school board on September 2.

Circuit Court Judge James Plowman Jr. previously issued a temporary injunction reinstating Cross’s employment on June 8, which was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court on appeal by the LCPS. At the end of the hearing on Monday, Plowman said there would likely be no further developments in the case until the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nathaniel Cline contributed to this report.

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