The Loudoun County school system has settled with a teacher who sued the district over its policy requiring educators to address transgender students by their pronouns, with the school board agreeing to permanently reinstate the teacher and to pay part of his legal fees.

Loudoun school officials suspended physical education instructor Tanner Cross last spring after he spoke at a board meeting to denounce Loudoun’s transgender policy and to declare he would never use a transgender child’s pronouns because that would entail “lying to a child,” “abuse to a child” and “sinning against our God.”

Cross, who works at Leesburg Elementary, sued the school board and Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler in early June, alleging district officials had violated his rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

In June, 20th Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr. ordered Loudoun to reinstate Cross as his suit proceeded — a decision that was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court in late August.

On Monday, Plowman granted Cross a permanent injunction to be reinstated to his teaching position. The school board also agreed to remove any reference to Cross’s suspension from his personnel file and to pay $20,000 to help cover Cross’s legal fees.

“We are very pleased that Tanner will be able to keep serving his students in light of this settlement,” said Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal group that is representing Cross.

A spokesman for the Loudoun school system did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other claims in Cross’s suit will proceed. Two more Loudoun teachers joined the suit over the summer, alleging that the school system’s transgender policy violates their beliefs, too.

The Alliance Defending Freedom — which has a history of taking on lawsuits that call into question the rights of transgender people — also amended the suit to seek the total repeal of the transgender policy. The group requested a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the policy while the suit continues. Plowman declined to rule on that request Monday, signaling he might issue a decision between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Loudoun’s policy forces teachers “to express ideas regarding gender identity that violate their conscience,” the amended suit reads. “Plaintiffs object to expressing this message because it communicates that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man.”

At a news conference held outside the courthouse following Monday’s hearing, Cross vowed to keep fighting the policy, according to video posted to Twitter by a Loudoun Now reporter.

Loudoun’s school board adopted the transgender policy on a 7-to-2 vote at a tense meeting in early August. The rule, which also allows transgender students to use facilities including bathrooms that match their gender identity, has lately drawn national attention and controversy as conservative parents and pundits attempt to tie the policy to a sexual assault that took place recently in a girls’ bathroom at a Loudoun high school. The policy took effect months after the sexual assault occurred.

Advocates of the policy contend that it helps safeguard transgender students from harassment. Loudoun adopted its transgender guidelines in obedience to a state law passed in 2020 requiring school districts throughout Virginia to enact guidelines to protect transgender children, a population research has shown is vulnerable to harassment and suicidal ideation.

Loudoun 4 All, a pro-equity parent group, released a statement Monday declaring support for staff members who follow Loudoun’s transgender policy.

“Parents of transgender students expect and deserve their children to be recognized and provided a safe place to learn and grow, regardless of a teacher’s beliefs,” Loudoun 4 All members wrote in the statement. “We hope that Mr. Cross will continue to provide a safe environment to all our students, no matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation.”