Loudoun Co. judge assesses rules for students and preferred pronouns
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge to Rule Whether to Immediately Stop Enforcement of the School System’s Recent Policy Requiring Teachers to Use Preferred Pronouns for Transgender and Straight Students in Schools County.
Loudoun County Circuit Court judge in Virginia will decide whether to immediately stop enforcement of recent school system policy that requires teachers to use preferred pronouns for transgender and heterosexual students in schools County.
Lawyers representing three Loudoun County teachers argued before Judge James Plowman that the new rule, titled Policy 8040, was government-imposed speech, which violated their client’s conscience and religious beliefs.
“Policy 8040 gives the Loudoun County Superintendent the power to silence and punish teachers for their views on sex and gender. It’s illegal and it discriminates against some teachers based on their perspective, ”said Tyson Langhofer, a Defending Freedom Alliance lawyer representing the three educators.
Langhofer and other lawyers have argued that the 8040 policy is also too subjective and that terms such as “gender breadth” are too broad for an effective and clear policy easily followed by teachers. They argued that there were simply too many pronouns for teachers to learn and that the policy would allow students to change pronouns too frequently, which they believed could lead to “mischief.”
During the proceedings, Judge Plowman said that some of the pronouns on the school’s list were words he “didn’t recognize”.
Lawyers representing the Loudoun County School Board argued that the rule only applies to teachers in their official capacity as educators. they cited Garcetti vs. Ceballos, a Supreme Court case which concluded that the freedom of expression of government employees is protected only as a private citizen and not if it is expressed in the course of their official duties. They argued that interactions with their transgender and heterogeneous students were within the competence of educators.
They also argued that the rule is “curriculum talk” and that personal beliefs should not interfere with the school curriculum. They cited examples of religious teachers opposing teaching evolution to students.
Lawyers for the LCPS also cited several studies that have shown positive physical and mental health benefits for transgender and heterosexual people when preferred names and pronouns are used.
While the plaintiffs oppose the use of non-standard pronouns, they have said they will use preferred first names for any student.
The judge was also informed by the lawyers of the LCPS that a preliminary injunction was not necessary because no irreparable harm had been caused to the three plaintiffs. Lawyers representing the teachers said the deprivation of constitutionally protected speech was prejudicial.
In the meantime, Monday also saw the announcement of a settlement regarding an elementary school teacher who spoke out against the rule in a meeting.
The lawsuit was originally filed by Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School who was put on paid administrative leave after criticizing the then proposed transgender policy in May. He was reinstated after a judge ruled the suspension was likely unconstitutional. School officials then appealed the judge’s decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.
In August, they ruled that Cross’s constitutional right to free speech was violated when he was penalized for what he said at a school board meeting.
On Monday, the court accepted a settlement: The Loudoun County School Board accepted a permanent injunction prohibiting him from retaliating against Cross for expressing his views at that May council meeting. They would also pay $ 20,000 for his legal fees and the suspension would be deleted from his personnel file.
“Teachers are like everyone else. We have views ideas, we should be free to express in court defended these rights for me, and for all teachers. I can now confidently continue to teach at Leesburg Elementary School without fear of punishment for expressing my views, ”Cross told reporters outside the courthouse.
Since the initial filing of Cross v. Loudoun County School Board, two other teachers, Monica Gill and Kimberly Wright, joined the lawsuit. After the settlement, lawyers said the current policy would remain the focus of their litigation.
“The 8040 policy is based on ideology, not solid science. This threatens the well-being of students and undermines the ability of school officials and teachers to serve according to their beliefs, ”Wright told reporters.
“There is currently a serious debate about how best to serve and care for children who suffer from and struggle with gender dysphoria. The Loudoun County School Board chose a side and not debated, they mandated it, forcing all teachers to be complicit, ”commented Gill.
Policy 8040 was adopted by the Loudoun County School Board on August 11.
The policy also allows transgender student athletes to be part of teams and use washrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.
Loudoun County Public Schools declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
Judge Plowman will now decide on the temporary restraining order and the preliminary injunction to stop the application of policy 8040 before a trial.
He said the decision would likely come after Thanksgiving.