Virginia county threatened with legal action over suspension of teacher who spoke about gender policies

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Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is facing potential legal action in response to its decision to suspend a teacher just days after he refused to say a “biological boy can be a girl and vice versa.”

A letter from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) demanded LCPS rescind the suspension and “refrain from any future retaliation against protected speech.”

It added that “[a]bsent the complete revocation of this suspension, Mr. Cross will be forced to pursue other legal options to safeguard his rights.”

An LCPS spokesperson declined to comment, citing pending litigation. 

Fox News reported Friday morning that LCPS had placed Cross on administrative leave. According to a document released by ADF, the district vaguely informed Cross of an investigation into “allegations that you engaged in conduct that has had a disruptive impact on the operations” of his school.

That letter was sent on Thursday by the district’s interim superintendent for Human Resources and Talent Development. It warned Cross that he was “restricted from the buildings and grounds of all Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) property.”

It added: “[Y]ou may not attend any school-sponsored events on or off LCPS property.”

ADF said in its letter that Cross asked about the basis of his allegations and LCPS “refused to provide any details other than to refer to the letter which did not provide any specifics.”

Senior Counsel Tyson C. Langhofer argued that Cross’ comments constituted private speech and were therefore protected by the First Amendment. 

An ongoing battle with LCPS officials

While Cross has encountered some backlash online, he’s also received support from others in the county. 

Scott Mineo, who runs the group Parents Against Critical Theory, told Fox News: “This was a bold, insulting, and eye opening moment that showed public opinion means so little to LCPS, that they still felt it was a good idea to force this teacher into to take leave. Hypocrisy and shame don’t even begin to describe their actions.”

Another Loudoun parent, Elizabeth Perrin, told Fox News that “it is truly sad that once again, our school board listens only to those in agreement with their point of view, and punishes any dissenting opinions via social media.”

She was referring to the secret Facebook group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County, which has allegedly tried to doxx and blacklist opponents of critical race theory.

Some board members belong to the group, although the extent of their involvement with various activities remains unclear. They’ve been accused of tacitly allowing efforts to intimidate CRT opponents. At least one member — Beth Barts — has been censured in relation to her social media activity, and was stripped of her committee assignments.

Like Mineo, Perrin similarly accused the district of hypocrisy. She pointed to the results of a public records request, which appeared to suggest the acting superintendent obscured activities related to a controversial, equity-related policy.

Emails obtained by Fox News appeared to show Christy Sullivan, a Loudoun Education Association (LEA) UniServ director, confronting superintendent Scott Ziegler about him allegedly misrepresenting their knowledge of a policy on teacher speech surrounding the county’s equity mission.

During a school board meeting in September, Ziegler claimed the LEA had been given the policy before committee consideration and had the opportunity to comment on it. He added that one of LEA’s UniServ directors provided “favorable feedback.”

“LEA did not receive proposed Policy 7560 ahead of time,” Sullivan said in an email just after the meeting. She added that “the Policy was not discussed prior to public comments” and “at no time did LEA provide feedback and state this Policy was fine.”

It’s unclear how the conflict unfolded, but a follow up email shows Ziegler saying he tried calling Sullivan twice. LCPS declined to comment. Earlier this month, Sullivan told Fox News via email: “Policy 7560 has been revised and the concerns with the Policy no longer exist.”

Other documents obtained by Fight for Schools PAC indicated that the district had misled people about not utilizing critical race theory.

An invoice from The Equity Collaborative, which received nearly $500,000 from the county, contained a line item for “Coaching support for LCPS leaders – follow up meetings focused on Critical Race Theory Development May 2020.” That was billed at $625 per hour for five hours, or $3,750. LCPS did not respond to a request for comment on this.

The district has denied teaching critical race theory. For example, Ziegler previously said “LCPS has not adopted Critical Race Theory as a framework for staff to adhere to.” He also said: “In explaining LCPS’ equity priorities, it might be helpful to state what they are not. They are not an effort to indoctrinate students and staff into a particular philosophy or theory. What they are is an effort to provide a welcoming, inclusive, affirming environment for all students.” 

“LCPS’ work on equity is a journey that requires the commitment of staff at all levels. I feel the staff’s work, which has been sustained, honest and undertaken in good faith, has been misrepresented recently by some members of the public,” he added.

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