LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — Days after a judge ruled that a Loudoun County teacher be reinstated after making controversial comments about transgender students, the school district appealed the decision and vowed to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court.
The controversy began late last month when Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Tanner Cross made a speech in front of the school board and said he would not call transgender students by their chosen pronouns and names.
"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," he said during a meeting on May 25th. "It's lying to a child. It's abuse to a child. And, it's sinning against our God."
Less than two days after those remarks, LCPS sent Cross a letter, saying he was being placed on paid administrative leave, "pending an investigation of allegations that [he] engaged in conduct that had a disruptive impact on the operations of Leesburg Elementary School.”
However, on Tuesday, a judge ruled that the school district's decision was unconstitutional.
Judge James Plowman Jr. wrote in his order that Leesburg Elementary physical education teacher Tanner Cross' "speech and religious content" were central to his decision and ordered LCPS to immediately reinstate the teacher to his prior position.
By Friday, Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) said it was appealing the judge's order and would take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court.
"Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt and disappointment about coming to school," a statement from the school district read. "While LCPS respects the rights of public-school employees to free speech and free exercise of religion, those rights do not outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment."
The case has garnered national attention and has forced some to take sides in the debate.
Equality Loudoun has come out in support of transgender students and worried on Friday about the message being sent by those who side with Cross.
"When it comes from the children that this is what they’d like to be called and this is what makes them feel most safe and most belonging in their school, it’s really a matter of are we looking out for our kids," said Nicholas Gothard. "What we need to be focused on is that the school systems ought to be affirming and safe places for our trans students.”
Others, however, have come to the defense of Cross.
After the judge ruled in favor of the teacher on Tuesday, a crowd of supporters waved flags and wore T-shirts backing him.
Those who spoke to WUSA 9 believed the school district went too far in punishing Cross and believed his free speech rights were violated.
"He wasn’t being unkind to anyone. He wasn’t attacking anyone. He wasn’t doing anything other than speaking his principles and his beliefs," said Rosie Oakley of Stand Up Virginia. "It speaks to the fact that politics has entered the classroom and entered the school systems.”
Moving forward, it is unknown if or how soon the case will be heard in front of the Virginia Supreme Court.