Loudoun County teachers Tanner Cross, Monica Gill, and Kim Wright spoke at a rally before the Loudoun County School Board meeting Tuesday evening. They are suing the school district over its transgender policy 8040 that includes a requirement that teachers use students’ preferred pronouns. Previously, the lawsuit focused on Cross’ termination after he spoke out at a school board meeting; an injunction in that case forced the district to allow him to return to work.
“I cannot thank this community enough for you support and unwavering dedication to stand alongside me in the fight to speak freely in a continued effort to protect our students and our children from harmful ideologies,” Cross said at the rally. “Now, the battle turns to policy 8040 itself.”
Gill, who is a Loudoun County High School history teacher, said students learn in different ways and have unique needs.
“For my students confronting very sensitive and difficult, and very complicated questions about who they are, my goal is to give my students the love and the understanding and the emotional support that they need. To do this, I also have to always be honest,” Gill said. “Because of this I cannot support policy 8040. It requires all teachers to deny biological truths about what it means to be male and female, and it forces us to refer to students in a way that conflicts with that students’ biological sex, solely based on a request by that student.”
“If teachers are forced to use a pronoun for a student that is not in alignment with their biological sex, we’re conveying to that student that gender is fluid, and that is not true,” she said.
Wright, who is a middle school teacher, said, “Policy 8040 is based on ideology and not sound science. It threatens the well-being of students and undermines school officials’ and teachers’ ability to serve in accordance with school beliefs.”
She added, “Many parents and teachers have expressed concerns over the policy 8040, saying that it would harm students and require teachers to say things that were not true. But their pleas, they were ignored by the Loudoun County School Board.”
The Loudoun County Public Schools transgender policy is part of a wave of transgender policies enacted this school year, following a new Virginia law. Loudoun County’s culture wars over school board issues like equity initiatives, transgender policy, and masking have spread to the national level, and are a key talking point in Republican politics.
In a separate event on Tuesday evening, moderators at a gubernatorial debate asked Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin if transgender students should be protected through statewide policy or local choice. Both candidates seemed to be trying to appeal to moderate voters throughout the debate.
“I like locals having the input, obviously, on such an important issue, but the state will always issue guidance as we do from the Department of Education. But I’ve said this before: these children are going through very stressful situations. Why people continually want to demonize children, I just don’t understand,” McAuliffe said.
Youngkin said, “With regard to our kids in schools, we are called to love everyone, to love everyone. And I agree with your conclusion Terry, that we should let local school districts actually make these decisions. But we must ask them to include concepts of safety, and privacy, and respect in the discussion, and we must demand that they include parents in this dialogue.”
Youngkin attacked McAuliffe, saying he voted against a bill that would have informed parents of explicit content in school libraries.
“You believe school systems should tell children what to do, I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education,” he said.
McAuliffe replied in a statement the Youngkin campaign quickly cut and turned into an ad: “The parents had the right to veto books, Glenn, not be knowledgeable about it, and also take them off the shelves. And I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. So, yeah. I stopped the bill. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach. You know, I get really tired of everybody running down teachers. I love our teachers. And what they have done through COVID, these are real heroes that deserve our respect and you keep running them down.”