Within days of the meeting, Leesburg Elementary School put Tanner on paid administrative leave, NBC News reported. It is unclear whether he was specifically given leave of absence based on comments made during the board meeting, but the letter partially reports that he has been investigated on allegations that he “engaged in behavior that disrupted the operation of the school.” A former district teacher also spoke out against trans-inclusive policies on sports and pronouns during the same meeting.
“Public schools have no job to force teachers to express ideological beliefs they do not hold, but it is impossible to suspend someone just because they respectfully express their opinion in a public gathering of what such gatherings are for,” Tyson said Langhofer, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian rights group that Cross represents, said in a statement that the school had violated his client’s right to freedom of expression. Langhofer wants the lock to be lifted.
The statement suggests that this situation is not about pronouns, but about “supporting an ideology”. It suggests that the school “favors” certain beliefs and wants to “force” Tanner to support those beliefs. On Tuesday, the group announced that their attorneys had filed a lawsuit against the school district.
But here’s the thing: pronouns aren’t just pronouns, that’s true. Using the correct, accurate pronouns conveys acceptance, comfort, validation, and basic respect for the people in your life. It goes without saying that this can have particular implications in the school setting if the students quickly realized that a (or how many) teacher refused to use the correct pronouns for a peer, which firstly “out” the student and, second, suggest that other students can use the wrong pronoun as well. With children (and in general) the values and behaviors we model are always important and almost always have a serious impact.
By and large, we already know that trans youths are extraordinarily isolated and bullied in school as a whole. Trans young people are harassed, bullied and even attacked on the Internet more often than their cisgender colleagues. They are more likely to drop out of high school without getting a degree. As teenagers are more likely to become vacant.
Then we add the recent onslaught of anti-trans legislation that seeks to exclude trans girls from participating in girls’ sports, which only encourages feelings of loneliness and division. We know that exercising (and participating in extracurricular activities in general) is great for teens when it comes to making friends, developing skills, and applying to college. Trying to ban trans children is hateful, cruel, and another unnecessary stressor during a literal pandemic when we are all just trying to survive.
You can check out the school committee meeting, including Tanner’s comments, below.