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Virginia teacher placed on leave for engaging in free speech at public meeting

ADF letter on behalf of teacher explains school district’s retaliation is unconstitutional, suspension must be reversed

Friday, May 28, 2021

ASHBURN, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Friday to Loudoun County Public Schools on behalf of an elementary school teacher after officials at Leesburg Elementary School suspended him for voicing his objections to two proposed school policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting. The policies would force teachers to violate their beliefs by requiring them to address students with their chosen pronouns rather than the ones consistent with their biological sex.

The teacher, Tanner Cross, attended Loudoun County’s school board meeting Tuesday, where he respectfully explained his concern for students who struggle with gender dysphoria but also his concern about being forced to violate his beliefs. Two days after the meeting, the school informed Tanner in a letter that he was being placed on administrative leave “pending an investigation of allegation that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”

“Public schools have no business compelling teachers to express ideological beliefs that they don’t hold, but it’s beyond the pale to suspend someone simply for respectfully providing their opinion at a public meeting, which is what such meetings are designed for,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology. The school favors certain beliefs, and it wants to force Tanner to cry uncle and endorse them as well. That’s neither legal nor constitutional, and neither was the school’s move to place Tanner on leave.”

“Immediately suspending an employee and launching an investigation for engaging in First Amendment-protected expression, creates an atmosphere of fear and is intended to send a message to Mr. Cross and other teachers that they must toe the line or face the consequences…,” the ADF letter explains. “The First Amendment does not countenance such retaliation. We demand that you immediately (1) rescind the suspension, (2) reinstate Mr. Cross so that he can return to class on Tuesday, June 1, (3) remove the suspension letter from his file, and (4) refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)


The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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