School Board Passes Policy That Protects First Amendment Rights In Response To Teachers’ Lawsuit

The Loudoun County school board voted on a revised professional conduct policy to specifically mention “Protected Speech” and the First Amendment rights of employees.

The new policy is a response to Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) teacher Tanner Cross who went viral for his comments at a school board meeting in May, where he spoke out against the district’s gender policy and was put on administrative leave shortly afterward. On Aug. 30 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled to reinstate him, calling his removal “likely unconstitutional.”

The district’s gender policy, which was eventually passed in August, requires staff to use student-chosen pronouns regardless of their beliefs or the students’ biological sex or gender.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Cross, along with two other LCPS teachers, Monica Gill and Kim Wright, who are suing the school district over the gender policy and their First Amendment rights.

The gender policy also allows students access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams based on their chosen gender identity.

“Employees of the school division must recognize that they are in a position of public trust,” the revised professional conduct policy said under the “Protected Speech” section. “However, nothing in this policy or any other policy shall be interpreted as abridging an employee’s First Amendment right to engage in protected speech or their right to a private life outside of their work responsibilities except as provided by law.”

Loudoun County has been ground zero for school board activism and parental pushback over the school district’s policies as they relate to issues like masks, COVID-19 vaccines and critical race theory (CRT).

CRT holds that America is fundamentally racist, yet it teaches people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies.

Free to Learn (FTL), an anti-CRT organization, launched a $500,000 advertising campaign on Sunday to target the the LCPS school board ahead of Tuesday night’s school board meeting and the start of the school year, FTL’s President Alleigh Marré told the Daily Caller News Foundation ahead of Tuesday’s school board meeting.

FTL launched and announced its $1 million advertising campaign so students can be “free from pressure or requirements to subscribe to a singular worldview and activist curriculum with a political agenda.” Marré said Loudoun was one of a handful of places FTL chose to focus on as it is an “egregious example of some of this activism and political curriculum seeping into the district and into classrooms.”

The modified policy also outlines a “Commitment to Equitable Treatment,” where “Employees are expected to support the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity and nondiscrimination practices through the performance of their job duties in order to promote respect, professionalism, civility and inclusivity for all persons.”

Tuesday’s LCPS school board meeting featured nearly two hours of public comment from frustrated parents and community members, but it did not allow public viewing. Instead, speakers were brought into the room in groups of 10 to speak for their allotted minute and thirty seconds.

Through the advertisements, FTL hopes “to lift the voices of these parents and teachers who up to this point, have been largely ignored” and “make it a little bit harder for the school board and the administration to ignore the community members and parents in Loudon County,” Marré said.

Marré said one of the most disturbing examples she had heard out of Loudoun County came from Laura Morris, the LCPS teacher who quit publicly at a school board meeting over the district’s “highly politicized agenda” and intolerance toward dissenting opinions.

“What was most disturbing to me was her account where she shared that teachers and staff within the district were encouraged to rat out their peers and colleagues who may have a different opinion even in their personal life,” Marré said. “When you start getting to that sort of desired control from the leadership and the administration, that’s extremely disturbing.”

“It is our hope that with this … the school board and the administration will step it up as far as listening to some of these concerns and not just ignore them as they have been,” Marré said. “Because right now, the school is just running roughshod over anyone who has a dissenting opinion to the point where teachers are leaving their jobs and the kids that they love teaching and supporting.”

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