During his suspension, Cross was forbidden from accessing school property and attending school-sponsored events. The school district cited, as evidence of disruption, six emails from five families of students asking that their children not be taught by Cross.
Cross has claimed that five other school district employees wished to speak up on the pronoun issue but had declined to do so, due to the district’s action against him.
Langhofer said that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have amended their lawsuit to challenge the school district’s policy on behalf of several teachers. “Loudoun County Public Schools is now requiring all teachers and students to deny truths about what it means to be male and female and compelling them to call students by their chosen pronouns or face punishment,” Langhofer said.
“Public employees cannot be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep a job,” he said.
At least two other teachers seek to join Cross’ lawsuit: Monica Gill, a Loudoun County High School history teacher, and Kim Wright, an English teacher at Smart’s Mill Middle School.
The amended legal complaint, filed Aug. 20, says that if the teachers comply with the new policy “they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa.”
“But if they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe—that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires,” the complaint continued.
The complaint said it is not disruptive to “civilly disagree” about important issues
“A truly tolerant society can permit such differences and accommodate all views, and so can a school district,” said the complaint, which charged that school board members have “refused to find middle ground.”
“They have made this case about far more than titles or pronouns; they have taken a side in a national debate over competing views of human nature and compelled conformity to, and support for, only one view.”
The Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling in Cross’ case cited a March 2021 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. That ruling, in the case of Meriwether v. The Trustees of Shawnee State University, said a university professor in Ohio had the right to legally challenge a policy mandating the use of preferred student pronouns.
(Story continues below)
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s push to make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected category in employment law could bring pronoun controversies to many workplaces across the country.
Editor's note, 2021 Sept. 2 1409: An earlier version of this story identified Nicholas Gothard as Equality Loudoun's executive director, and characterized his comment to WUSA as referring to the state Supreme Court decision, and not the issue more generally. It has been corrected.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.