ADF Defends Virginia Teacher’s First Amendment Rights

NRB | June 10, 2021 | Member News

In May of this year, Leesburg Elementary School teacher, Tanner Cross, was suspended by Loudoun County Public Schools for voicing his objections to two proposed policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting. On Tuesday, the Loudoun County Circuit Court halted the school system’s retaliation against this teacher.

Less than 48 hours after Cross had attended a school board meeting in his personal capacity and voiced his opinion on some proposed policies, he was informed that he was being placed on administrative leave. The policies that Cross spoke up about were policies that would require teachers to use a child’s preferred pronouns instead of the one that corresponds to their biological sex, in some cases without parental notification or consent.

As an educator for 15 years and a teacher who deeply cares for his students, Cross refused to remain silent as policies were being considered that he believed would ultimately harm students and force teachers to say things that they don’t believe.

When Cross reached out to NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), they sent a letter to Loudoun County Public Schools on Cross’s behalf. The school responded by stating that it intended to stand by its decision, so ADF filed a lawsuit against school district officials.

ADF agreed with Cross that these policies would force teachers to lie to students and embrace an ideology that could ultimately harm them.

“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,” ADF President and CEO Michael Farris said. “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.”

In the United States, teachers have First Amendment rights to express their views, and ADF is working to ensure that Loudoun County Public Schools fulfill their duty to respect that.

“Everyone’s rights come under threat if a school board can strip teachers like Tanner of their fundamental rights as American citizens and get away with it,” said ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer after the court hearing. “To preserve a free society for ourselves and our children, we must stand up for Tanner and all citizens who have the courage to express their views.”

This week, Cross’s stand in court did pay off as the court ruled that his constitutional rights were violated, sending the school board the message that it is not above the law.

“Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy,” Farris said. “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.”

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