This Fall, Northern Virginia, and above all Loudoun County, became a major battleground in the fight against wokeism in public schools. The issue played a role in Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe, though not a primary role in my opinion.
In Loudoun County, the matter of public school wokeism has also been litigated in the case of Tanner Cross. He’s the teacher suspended for stating, at a school board meeting, that his Christian faith precluded him from deferring to a student’s preferred pronouns because doing so would constitute a lie about the reality of the child’s identity.
Cross sued. A judge ruled that the school board violated Cross’ First Amendment rights, and temporarily blocked the suspension through an injunction. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed that ruling. We wrote about the litigation here.
Now, in a settlement of this case, the Loudoun County School Board has agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting it from retaliating against Cross for expressing his constitutionally protected views on the board’s transgender policy. The school board also agreed to remove any reference to Cross’ suspension from his personnel file and to pay $20,000 toward his attorneys’ fees.
Cross’ attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom announced the settlement here.
The litigation isn’t over, though. Prior to settlement, the court allowed Cross’ complaint to be amended to add new claims against the school board by three Loudoun County teachers. Unlike Cross, who just challenged his suspension, they contest the underlying “preferred pronoun” policy to which Cross objected at the school board meeting. That portion of the lawsuit will continue against the board.
Cross’ claim did not present the precise issue raised by the other teachers. However, in the appeal of his case, the Virginia Supreme Court cited with seeming approval the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Meriwether v. Hartop. The Virginia court noted that the Sixth Circuit “emphatically held that a university professor stated viable free speech and free exercise claims based on his university’s disciplining him for refusing, based on his Christian faith, to use a student’s preferred pronouns.”
We congratulate Cross and his lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom on their victory, and will continue to monitor the case as the important claims added by the new plaintiffs proceed.
UPDATE: In a related development, two sets of parents have filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin school district challenging the district’s policy that allows students to alter their names and pronouns without parental consent. Alexandra DeSanctis reports on the case here.
She notes that the policy being challenged in Wisconsin mirrors similar ones that have been adopted across the country in recent years. Thus, we’ll try to keep an eye on this litigation, too.