Arizona School Board Settles Discrimination Lawsuit With Christian University

In a resounding victory for religious freedom, an Arizona school board decided to settle a lawsuit with Arizona Christian University (ACU). 

The Washington Elementary School District (WESD) board was offended by the university’s Christian “Jesus” values. It said it wanted to create a “safe space for our LGBT students, staff, and community.”

Without comment, the school board decided on a 4-1 vote to reinstitute the program and pay out $25,000 to cover ACU’s legal fees. 

The effort to separate any connections with the Christian university was spearheaded by a school board member who donned cat ears and described herself as a “bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent Queer Black Latina.”

She claimed in a February board meeting that the system’s contract with ACU “makes me feel like I could not be safe in this school district.”

For 11 years, the school district and Arizona Christian had a student teacher contract. This partnership permitted ACU students to acquire classroom experience through working with WESD schools.

ACU student teachers had to agree to comply with the district’s non-discrimination policies, and this was apparently the case. 

The joint effort had been deemed a success, and the district went on to hire 17 student teachers who participated in the program as full-time educators. There has not been a single complaint about the student teachers, but every board member voted to cancel the contract.

The offended board member, Tamillia Valenzuela, declared in that February board meeting that she “wholeheartedly” supported religious freedom. However, she expressed “concerns regarding looking at this particular institution.”

The source of her misgivings could be found in the ACU student handbook, which advocates “traditional…morality and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.”

ACU was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which noted that the district was critical of the school’s religious beliefs. The board also questioned how a person could be “committed to Jesus Christ and yet respect LGBT students and board members.”

The group announced the school district quickly caved and agreed to allow student teachers from the school again. 

ADF senior counsel David Cortman released a statement declaring “at a time when a critical shortage of qualified, caring teachers exists, the Washington Elementary School District did the right thing by prioritizing the needs of elementary school children.”