Student teachers from Arizona Christian University (ACU) will be able to complete their fieldwork in public schools after winning their case against the Washington Elementary School District. The university’s student teachers were previously banned by the school’s board who were concerned with the students’ practice of biblical Christianity. According to The Christian Post, the discrimination lawsuit was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the university for what they found to be religious discrimination.
The settlement included “allowing Arizona Christian student teachers back in the classroom under a new placement agreement” and “the university was given an additional five years of teaching practice for its students that will need to be renewed annually. The school district also agreed to pay $25,000 in attorneys’ fees.” The student teachers are expected to follow the school’s policies while conducting their fieldwork.
ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman, who argued in federal district court on behalf of ACU, said in a statement: “By discriminating against Arizona Christian University and denying it an opportunity to participate in the student-teacher program because of its religious status and beliefs, the school district was in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution, not to mention state law that protects ACU’s religious freedom […] At a time when a critical shortage of qualified, caring teachers exists, the Washington Elementary School District board did the right thing by prioritizing the needs of elementary school children and agreeing to partner once again with ACU’s student-teachers.”
A board member from the school district, Tamillia Valenzuela, explained that she had a problem with the university after reading that part of their mission includes to “influence, engage and transform the culture with Truth by promoting the biblically informed values that are foundational to Western civilization, including the centrality of family, traditional sexual morality, and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.”
Still, the court ruled in favor of the university, bringing in another victory for religious freedom and expression. While the university’s student teachers must adhere to the policies of the school, they will be permitted to complete the coursework necessary to become a teacher.