Teachers ask court to halt Va. school district policy forcing them to use trans pronouns
A pair of teachers are seeking to take a Virginia school district to court over a newly passed policy requiring, among other things, that staff uses the preferred names and pronouns of trans-identified students.
Loudoun County High School history teacher Monica Gill and Smart’s Mill Middle School English teacher Kim Wright filed an amended complaint to block the new policy passed last week by the Loudoun County School Board.
By a vote of 7-2, the board passed Policy 8040: Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students last week despite considerable opposition to the proposal from some teachers and parents.
Gill and Wright propose to be added to a pre-existing legal challenge over the school district's treatment of Leesburg Elementary School teacher Bryon Tanner Cross, who was placed on leave after voicing his displeasure with the policy proposal during a school board meeting.
Filed Monday, the amended complaint argues that Cross, Gill and Wright oppose the new policy because they believe it “communicates that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man.”
The complaint further alleges that if the teachers were to comply with the policy, "they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false."
"[I]f they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe — that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires," the amended complaint states.
The legal filing adds that the school district has "refused to find middle ground" and "made this case about far more than titles or pronouns."
"[T]hey have taken a side in a national debate over competing views of human nature and compelled conformity to, and support for, only one view," the complaint charges. "Under the timeless free speech principles enshrined in the Virginia Constitution and laws, Defendants cannot compel one side to voice the other’s beliefs."
Tyson Langhofer of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal nonprofit representing the teachers, said in a statement on Tuesday that he believes the teachers “shouldn’t be forced to promote ideologies that are harmful to their students and that they believe are false.”
“Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and is compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment,” stated Langhofer.
“Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job. Freedom — of speech and religious exercise — includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs.”
Policy 8040 requires that school faculty and staff use the chosen name and pronouns of a student who identifies as “gender-expansive or transgender.”
“School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent/legal guardian, when using a name or pronoun to address the student, use the name and pronoun that correspond to their consistently asserted gender identity,” the policy reads.
“The use of gender-neutral pronouns is appropriate. Inadvertent slips in the use of names or pronouns may occur; however, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy.”
The policy allows students to use the restroom or locker room “that corresponds to their consistently asserted gender identity,” advising school administrators to consider adding “gender-inclusive or single-user restrooms” for more privacy.
According to a frequently-asked-questions document, LCPS recommended that schools “make efforts to eliminate gender-based practices to the extent possible,” claiming that these practices “can have the effect of marginalizing, stigmatizing, and excluding students, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression.”
“Examples of practices that may be based on gender, and which should be eliminated, include grouping students for class activities, gender-based homecoming or prom courts, limitations on who can attend as ‘couples’ at school dances, and gender-based events such as father-daughter dances,” reads the FAQ document.
The policy garnered national headlines when LCPS suspended Cross after he spoke out in his personal capacity against the policy at a school board meeting in May.
“My name is Tanner Cross, and I am speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria,” stated Cross at the time. “I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences.”
Cross sued the school district in response to the suspension, with a judge granting the Christian teacher a temporary injunction for his reinstatement in June while the lawsuit proceeds. LCPS is appealing the judge's decision.
“LCPS respectfully disagrees with the Circuit Court’s decision to issue the injunction, and it is appealing this ruling to the Supreme Court of Virginia,” stated LCPS back in June.
“Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school. Addressing those concerns is paramount to the school division’s goal to provide a safe, welcoming and affirming learning environment for all students."