Students in one of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs returned to school Thursday even as three teachers were in court to challenge a school district policy forcing all teachers to refer to self-identified transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

The Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling ordering the reinstatement of Byron Tanner Cross, an elementary gym teacher suspended by the Loudoun County school district after he spoke out against the then-proposed transgender policy during a school board meeting. 

The Loudon County School Board’s new policy, besides requiring teachers and administrators to use preferred pronouns, also allows students to use the school restroom of their choosing regardless of their biological sex.

The school board based its Policy 8040 on the Virginia Department of Education’s “model policies” on the treatment of transgender students in elementary and secondary schools.

So far, six of Virginia’s 133 school boards, including Chesapeake’s, have rejected the transgender policies. Two Virginia counties other than Loudoun, Newport News and Chesterfield, also voted to adopt the model policies.

Parents and teachers who oppose the new transgender student policy in Loudoun County, about 45 minutes west of the nation’s capital, contend that it violates educators’ First Amendment right to free speech.

“These policies are violating the core constitutional rights of teachers, of students, and of parents,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal aid organization focused on religious freedom, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“It’s forcing teachers and students to speak messages that are going to be harmful to students,” Langhofer, lead attorney on the lawsuit, said.

Two other Loudoun teachers recently joined Cross in taking the school district to court.

Alliance Defending Freedom amended its lawsuit Aug. 16 to include Monica Gill, a Loudoun County high school history teacher, and Kim Wright, a middle school English teacher.

“They are phenomenal teachers who have had great reviews, who have had great relationships with students of all backgrounds, including LGBT students,” Langhofer said in the interview with The Daily Signal. “Yet they’re being told they must immediately affirm a student as a boy [even] if [the student is] a girl and speak a message that they believe is harmful to that person, putting [the student] on a social transition, which leads to medical transition, which leads to harmful outcomes.”

The Loudoun school district has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Alliance Defending Freedom is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the school board from forcing Gill, Wright, and Cross to use a student’s preferred pronoun or a pronoun that doesn’t reflect his or her biological sex.

“The end result that we are asking for is a final judgment, which essentially says that the school cannot force Monica, Kim, and Tanner to use a student’s demanded pronoun. That’s ultimately what we’re asking for,” Langhofer said.

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