Tensions ran high at the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday evening, following a Virginia judge’s decision to reinstate an elementary school teacher suspended for refusing to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.
Earlier, Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr ordered the school district to ‘immediately reinstate’ Tanner Cross as a physical education instructor at Leesburg Elementary School. Cross was suspended for speaking out at a board meeting in late May against a proposed policy that required teachers to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns and names.
On June 1, Cross filed a lawsuit against the district’s superintendent Scott A. Ziegler and Lucia Villa Sebastian, the assistant superintendent for human resources, claiming his First Amendment rights had been violated. The president of Alliance Defending Freedom — the conservative Christian nonprofit legal group representing Cross — celebrated the ruling as a win for free expression.
‘Nobody should be punished for expressing concern about a proposed government policy, especially when the government invites comment on that policy,’ said Michael Farris, the CEO of ADF. ‘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.’
Following the court’s decision, supporters and opponents of Cross clashed outside the school board meeting on Tuesday night. Some parents held signs demanding the board ‘Protect Trans Kids’, while others fashioned shirts reading ‘Let Tanner Teach’.
The scene inside the meeting was even tenser as over 100 parents spoke at the public podium, primarily in support of Cross.
‘I’m here to stand with Tanner Cross in defense of his First Amendment rights,’ said one parent. Another declared they were ‘here to support a teacher’s right to share his opinion without fear of punishment’.
Parents also lambasted board members over their controversial push for critical race theory. Recently, Loudoun public schools have shifted their curriculum to include rhetoric about systemic racism and bias — Loudoun has paid approximately $500,000 to a racial consulting firm. District employees are also required to undergo racial ‘equity’ training.
‘We will not yield. We will not let you have the souls of our children,’ said Monica Gill, a self-described Christian parent, to the board. ‘We will not let you have our souls.’
Another parent concluded, ‘I will fight to the bitter end…if you teach my children that they are racist just because they’re white,’ according to PBS reporter Amna Nawaz.
Eventually, the audience became so boisterous that board chair Brenda Sherinda adjourned the meeting ‘so the room’ could ‘find its decorum’.
Ryan Girdusky, president of the 1776 Project PAC — a political action committee seeking to combat critical race theory by electing conservative school board members nationwide — says it’s a good sign that parents are so ‘energized’ in Loudoun County.
‘People are motivated when it comes to their child’s education. They don’t want to politicize education — and that’s what critical race theory does,’ Girdusky told The Spectator. ‘It politicizes all forms of education, not just history and civic classes.’
Girdusky believes parents in the district have an advantage over other school systems in the country because ‘the actions by the teachers and school board members were so egregious that it got people energized to sit there and actually do something’.
‘School board elections are both non-partisan and traditionally have very low voter turnout. So I think mobilizing the conservatives, even in areas that don’t traditionally vote Republican, would be enough to help flip many of them,’ he added.
When it comes to the legal battle with their PE teacher, school officials have been largely silent on the matter with no official comment. Virginia law grants the district the right to petition for a review of Judge Plowman’s ruling within the next 15 days.