NEWS & ANALYSIS

Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Reinstatement of Teacher


The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a circuit court ruling that reinstated Tanner Cross, a teacher who was banned for speaking out against a proposed transgender pronoun mandate. 

The Court cited recent First Amendment precedents from both the U.S. Supreme court and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which does not have jurisdiction over Virginia federal courts, Just the News reports. 

“[I]t is settled law that the government may not take adverse employment actions against its employees in reprisal for their exercising their right to speak on matters of public concern,” and the district doesn’t dispute that Cross was speaking on an “issue of social, political, or other interest to a community,” the high court said. 

The district “incorrectly minimize[d] Cross’ interest in making his public comments.” He had a “compelling” interest in sharing his view that the proposed policy, which was later approved, “can harm [children’s] physical or mental wellbeing” and that it could “burden his freedoms of expression and religion” by forcing him to address students as the opposite sex.” 

“The only disruption the Defendants can point to is that a tiny minority of parents requested that Cross not interact with their children,” the high court ruled. “However, the Defendants identify no case in which such a nominal actual or expected disturbance justified restricting speech as constitutionally valued as Cross’ nor have they attempted to explain why immediate suspension and restricted access to further Board meetings was the proportional or rational response to addressing the concerns of so few parents.”

As previously reported by Human Events News, in June, Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman Jr. ordered the Loudoun County School System to reinstate Cross and to lift its ban on his entering any county school building or grounds. 

“Educators are just like everybody else – they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express,” Tyson Langhofer, one of Cross’ lawyers, said in a written statement celebrating the judge’s decision. 

“Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost [teachers] 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,” he continued. “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.