A Virginia gym teacher who was placed on leave for his comments at a school board meeting saying that the school couldn't force him to teach that biological boys can be girls and vice versa is preparing to sue the school for violating his amendment rights.
Tanner Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School gym teacher, spoke with Ben Domenech Tuesday night on Fox News Primetime on his decision to say what he did, and the support he has received in the wake of his suspension.
Ben Domenech, who said he lived in Leesburg for almost half of his life and said he was personally interested in the story, stated that he was shocked to see "the kind of reaction that [Cross] received for what seems to me to have been things that virtually every American believed until about five minutes ago."
"Were you surprised by it?" Domenech asked. "Did you know what kind of risk you were running when you said what you said?"
Cross said that he was surprised at the reaction to his comments. He said that Americans "love our free speech," and that teachers are "just like everybody else."
"We have political views. We have religious views, and we like to advocate for those views and not be punished for it, but it kind of feels like it’s going in that direction," said Cross.
Domenech asked Cross' attorney, Tyson Langhofer, "what can be argued in terms of the court system in defense of someone who clearly is trying to exercise not just their free speech rights, but their freedom of religion as well?"
"Well the First Amendment is very clear that public schools can't punish and retaliate against teachers, simply for sharing their beliefs and opinions," said Langofer.
"The school board invited public comment to a proposed policy, and all Tanner did was respond to that request and give his opinion, and yet he was punished for it. And that shouldn’t be."
Langhofer goes on to say that Cross' free speech and free exercise rights were violated, and that Cross was advocating for all teachers to be able to express their beliefs and opinions without being punished.
Domenech pointed out that social changes in the last few years have been able to be pushed through, backed by corporate America and government entities, with limited push back for friction from others.
"They require someone to basically be the friction. To stand up against them, push back against it and say 'no I’m not going to move on this.' Is that something that you though through when you went and said what you said? Did you think of yourself in that capacity? Or was this something that just kind of came upon you and was unexpected?"
Cross said that he was thinking about his students and teachers who were afraid to express how they truly feel. He said he invested his life in teaching and giving back to the community.
"It started with students, it will always be about students." He continued that it was about all Americans, students and teachers alike, to speak freely.
"Your doing this, standing up on this issue, is going to embolden other people to support you, and to reach out to you I hope, and let you know that this is important to them as well. Have you experienced that yet?" asked Domenech.
Cross said that he had received praise from students and parents at his school, as well as from people all over the country.
"I have. I've gotten a lot of praise to be quite honest with you. So there is a lot of folks that believe in what we believe, even students, families have reached out to me, people from all over the country. Everybody's been very nice and kind of praising what I did."