“It’s Lying to a Child”: Virginia Teacher Suspended After Opposing Pronoun Policy

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We recently discussed a meeting of the Loudoun County school board in which a teacher launched into a diatribe against classic works like To Kill A Mockingbird as racist. Now another teacher is the focus of a national debate after he spoke to the school board. However, teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross has been suspended for speaking against gender policies.

At issue was Policy 8040, which requires Loudoun staff to use preferred pronouns.

“LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive or transgender students to use their 18 chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence, regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record. 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 gender identity.”

The line of tension is not in the first part of the policy in allowing students to use their chosen pronoun but requiring others to use them. That has triggered religious and political objections around the country.

Notably, the rule extends to other students who can be punished for failing to use the required pronouns:

“The use of gender-neutral pronouns are 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 punishment of a student for failing to use the pronouns could create the most difficult constitutional challenges under the First Amendment. That could be deemed as compelled speech in contravention of their religious and political views.

Cross is an elementary school physical education teacher and appeared before the board to express the view of some parents that the policy forces people to be adopt speech that they reject on religious or political grounds.  Cross was adamant and strident in his opposition in first expressing sympathy for those with gender dysphoria but also denouncing the policy.

He makes reference to a chilling “60 Minutes” program interviewing people who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria as young children and quickly put through gender changing procedures with little time or serious review. Those interviewed describes how they were harmed by the transitioning procedures and felt that little was done to protect them.

Cross began by stating “My name is Tanner Cross and I am speaking out of love for those who are suffering from gender dysphoria.” He goes on to reference that he is a teacher but would not follow the policies:

“It’s not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready. We condemn school policies [that] would damage children, defile the holy image of God. I love all of my students but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. I’m a teacher but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion. It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”

 

After that statement, Cross was put on suspension and may be terminated.

Principal Shawn Lacey sent out an email to students stating:

“I’m contacting you to let you know that one of our physical education teachers, Tanner Cross, is on leave beginning this morning. In his absence, his duties will be covered by substitute staff already working in our building. I wanted you to know this because it may affect your student’s school routine. Because this involves a personnel matter, I can offer no further information.”

The action raises a difficult issue for free speech. First, as a parent and teacher, Cross has every right to state his opposition to the policy.  There was not a call to fire Loudoun County teacher Andrea Weiskopf when she called for book bans and attacked those supporting classics like To Kill A Mocking Bird as advocating harmful “White Saviorism.”

However, Weiskopf did not say that she would not follow any contrary decision of the board. Cross appears to state that he will not comply with the gender policy. If Cross merely appeared at the meeting to oppose the policy, he would have an extremely strong constitutional case in opposing any suspension or termination.  Instead, he appears to pledge that he will not comply as a teacher in the county.

There may be a little wriggle room. Cross specifically declares “I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion.” It is not clear if that means that he would refuse to use a required pronoun. He could argue that he was saying that he would not expressly endorse the underlying conclusion on gender or the basis for the policy.  However, it certainly sounded like he was saying that he would not comply with Policy 8040.

As noted above, the strongest challenge could be effort to sanction students who refuse to use such pronouns.  Cross is a teacher who is expected to follow these policies and most courts would likely support the school in mandating such compliance. However, his case could force a challenge on the two opposing views. The school views this as supporting an anti-discrimination policy while the teacher views this as curtailing his free speech and religious rights.

The tragedy is that both sides clearly care deeply for students. Cross comes across as someone who genuinely loves his students, but holds religious views that others believe are harmful to some students.

There may be room for compromise. A court could ask if there is any “give” in this language. It could come down to the language allowing punishment of “staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun.”

The rule does state that “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 gender identity.” Yet, this is “when using a name or pronounce to address the student.” What if a teacher simply does not use a pronoun?  If Cross refers to such students by their last name and avoids any pronoun, would that be considered compliance? If so, the board should clearly lay out such options in writing. Indeed, if Cross is fired, such questions could be soon before a court.

 

 

89 thoughts on ““It’s Lying to a Child”: Virginia Teacher Suspended After Opposing Pronoun Policy”

  1. Jonathan: Requiring a public school teacher to use the gender pronoun preferred by a transgender or gender diverse student would not seem to be controversial policy. But the school policy does rankle Tanner Cross and you as a form of “compelled speech” and a violation of the First Amendment. Although Cross expressed “love” for students who suffer from gender dysphoria he refuses to follow stated school policy. Why? Because he believes his school’s transgender policy “would damage children, defile the holy image of God…I’m a teacher but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl or vice versa because it’s against my religion…it’s sinning against our God”. Cross is apparently a devout Christian who reads his Bible. Unfortunately, there is not a single verse in scripture that discusses transgender identities. In Deuteronomy 22:5 it says: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wearing women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this”. So God detests cross-dressing but says nothing about transgenders. Some right-wing Christians think discrimination against transgenders is permissible because God created only a man and a woman–Adam and Eve. But under Genesis God created heaven and earth and everything in between. According to many religious scholars the “and” between man and woman in Genesis is not meant as binary but is also inclusive of the LGBT community because they are part of creation. So if Cross loses his job and goes to court he will have a hard time convincing God to testify in his defense.

    After losing the legal fight against marriage equality the religious right has now turned to fighting against LGBT civil rights in schools. But you apparently support Mr. Cross’s right to impose his bigoted interpretation of the Bible on his students. You say “Cross comes across as someone who genuinely loves his students,…”. That’s hard to square with his open animus toward the transgender students in his classroom. Cross has a right to his own private religious beliefs. But he doesn’t have a right to dictate public school policy. If Cross refuses to acknowledge LGBT civil rights and follow school policy he should be terminated or allowed to resign and then go and teach in a private religious school where anti-LGBT discrimination is permitted.

    1. I am a gay man and I believe that there are only 2 genders. The left poisons everything it touches. You cannot overrule the laws of biology. You are either a man or a woman. You cannot be both anymore than you can be half pregnant. The gay community and their cheerleaders in the media and the academy are culturally toxic and seek to destroy the values and traditions of society. This is not discrimination; it is common sense. McIntyre is merely an apologist for grievance and victimization politics. He is also a religious bigot.

      1. Bless. The idea of people calling truth “discrimination against transgender students” would be funny if not so tragic. Would the person also say that refusal to counsel an anorexic student was “discrimination”? Because that also involves pointing out that the student’s incorrect (according to science) view, a view which can be expressed, certainly, but cannot be taught by any honest person as “truth” in any institution of learning.

        Sorry, but it’s a poor argument to claim that denying science has any place in schools — and especially a poor argument to pretend to be “saving” transgender kids as you do it. Please… When you’re pushing an agenda, at least have the moral fortitude to admit you’re pushing an agenda, rather than repositioning it as protecting students (by agreeing to stop teaching biology? Are you serious?)

        I’m a retired teacher married to another teacher. He’s right. You do not lie to your students, esp when the very reashaeon you are there is to teach them not to follow popular opinion, but to ascertain truth. To paint someone upholding that standard as a bigot is despicable.

        Need I add that to then draw in religious citizens as a group and paint them as doing this because of their (paraphrase?) “failure to stop gay marriage” just adds to the reprehensible attitude? What kind of moral do we have in 2021? The left lives on fear and rage.

  2. Mr. Turley, “The punishment of a student for failing to use the pronouns could create the most difficult constitutional challenges under the First Amendment. That could be deemed as compelled speech in contravention of their religious and political views.” No, there is no *could* about it. It’s a certainty that this would violate the First Amendment, not a possibility.

  3. I suppose helping students feel better about their desired role in a utopian world is more important than helping them learn to function in the real world. Go ahead and fire the dude; he’s a White Male, so nobody will care.

  4. Transgenderism is a mental disorder and biology doesn’t change to suit anyone. If you reject this, you’re delusional and a liberal.

  5. The God I know made everyone! Some babies didn’t get the correct body with the right brain!

    1. If you claim your God made everyone, but some didn’t get the correct body, then you are admitting your God is not infallible and omniscient. On the other hand, I accept that MY GOD IS OMNISCIENT and any “mistakes” are by mere humans who claim to know better than God.

      1. OK, but there’s no way for you to prove that your god or any other god exists. Belief in gods is a matter of faith.

        1. This is a distraction. The issue is not God or belief in God, though the left wants to frame it as “bigoted Christians” (funny how you never hear the muslims brought into this, isn’t it? Why is that, do you think?) The issue is truth.

          Does not matter your faith or lack of it. What matters is truth. We do not deliberately lie to students. We especially do not bend over backwards to pat ourselves on the back while insulting others, as we do it. Geesh!

          Yes, the globalists know that it is important, when enslaving a people, to force them to accept– and repeat –lies. But what kind of people HELP them do this, rather than standing up for what is right?

          You’d rather be in the “popular crowd” (because politics is like HS in many ways) than stand up for truth? That’s weak. The hate that has become the fuel driving the left since the obama era is destroying the country. Please don’t just “blindly obey” because it’s easier. It’s way past time we took a stand.

      2. So when a baby is born with severe and mental and physical handicaps.. that’s humans mistake?

        1. Yes. Every imperfection in the world is the result of human failings, not God’s. It all originates in man’s original disobedience of God’s law. Modern science tries to explain this through Chaos Theory. The result is that an initial variation in the perfect order amplifies itself through infinite iterations resulting in completely different results.

          1. What nonsense.

            Most of the history of life on Earth preceded the existence of humans. How can you believe there there were no imperfections before we evolved? That would imply, for example, that you bizarrely believe that there were no birth defects in any species prior to our evolution. Or are you an evolution denier who simply doesn’t believe that other species existed before us and that we’re the result of evolution?

            1. Just because there are variations, that doesn’t make them mistakes. Some variations are the product of adaptation to a constantly changing world BY DESIGN of a creator. Once again you think you can understand the workings of God with the limited knowledge we humans have. As for evolution, I am still awaiting definitive proof that one species has evolved from another. Until then Darwin’s theory remains just that – a theory.

    2. Then their “brain” (as in mental health) needs to be addressed with proper medical care. Not hormones and surgeries – and other people being required to participate in pretending these mentally ill people are something other than what they were born.

      1. Thank you for returning the discussion to the topic at hand. This is not about Christianity. (Again, odd how we never hear about other beliefs when this comes up. Does that tell us anything? Indeed.) This is about biology.

        It’s about evidence, not faith. Those trying to turn this into a religious argument (on both sides) are distracting us from the fact that leaders are attempting to force us to lie to our children. To knowingly deceive them. Really stop and think about that. It’s breathtaking.

    3. I am not religious, so Cross and I have come to the same conclusion for different reasons. The problem I have with gender nonsense given such attention in schools is that there is no science behind “born in the wrong body.” Schools should not be pushing this ridiculous pseudoscience as fact, especially not to impressionable kids who believe what adults tell them. Not only is “born in the wrong body” pseudoscientific, it is based on sexist, regressive stereotypes. Ask any parent of a so-called transkid why their kid is transgender, and they’ll start talking about toys, clothes, hairstyles and activities. Boys who like ballet, dolls and dresses are still boys. Girls who like trucks, overalls and short hair are still girls. Telling a child their body is wrong and must be fixed by a doctor because of the child’s likes and dislikes, or because the child has the “soul of a boy/girl” or some nebulous “inner feeling,” is grooming the child to believe nonsense and to believe they need medical intervention because of their personality. Perpetuating the “wrong body” nonsense or the “you can choose whether you are a boy or a girl” lie with the use of incorrect pronouns is harmful to kids, especially from teachers, who are entrusted with caring for, safeguarding and educating children. Lying to these kids does them no favors. Additionally, being compelled to lie harms teachers and goes against teachers’ duty of care.

  6. Does anyone have any data on the error rate for transgender procedures? Out of a sample of, say 100, how may who have had transgender medical procedures before the age of consent regret the procedures as an adult?

    What percentage would be an acceptable error rate. What percentage would indicate the evaluation techniques to authorize the procedures are too error prone for general use?

    Anyone have any data?

    1. Does anyone have any data on the error rate for transgender procedures? Out of a sample of, say 100, how may who have had transgender medical procedures before the age of consent regret the procedures as an adult?
      More than 99%.

  7. “The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech”

    https://youtu.be/MwdYpMS8s28

    “When your government starts telling you that these are the words you should use, you should start thinking pretty damb hard about your government.”

    The school board is the governing body of the public school. Are they the culprits, the administration, or both?

    1. The are the tools those higher up are using, and they are acting as tools willingly. However, the topic “the rising tide of compelled speech” is atmospheric in its intensity. This is not about one school board — or even about school boards in general. It’s about the Great Reset, Agenda 21/UN2030, the New Green Deal, the New Normal, the Technocracy, Urbanization, Globalization, the NWO, climate change, Anti-Racism — whatever name they’re using for it this year.

      This is about totalitarianism on a larger scale than we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It’s about “fundamentally transforming” the world.

  8. “If Cross merely appeared at the meeting to oppose the policy, he would have an extremely strong constitutional case in opposing any suspension or termination. Instead, he appears to pledge that he will not comply as a teacher in the county.”

    He has an extremely strong constitutional case regardless, as this is a case of compelled speech. Compelled speech does not equal free speech. People are not even compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance. This is a tyrannical policy. Civil disobedience is in order in the face of unjust laws or policies.

    1. A teacher who refuses to use the correct gender with a cis-gendered student would be fired.

      Is that compelled speech too? If so, it’s been around as long as there have been teachers. If not, how is it different, other than that more people agree with it?

      1. A teacher who refuses to use the correct gender with a cis-gendered student would be fired.
        It’s impossible to refuse to use the correct gender with a student. There are no gendered second-person pronouns.

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