PHOENIX - A deal has been reached between a Phoenix area school district and a Christian university in Arizona over the district's previous decision to terminate an agreement it had with the university.
In a statement, officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom announced that Washington Elementary School District will enter into a new agreement with the Arizona Christian University that will allow ACU student-teachers at the Christian college teach at WESD school once again.
"As part of the settlement in Arizona Christian University v. Washington Elementary School District, the district also agreed to pay $25,000 in attorneys’ fees," read a portion of ADF's statement.
According to legal documents posted on ADF's website, lawyers allege that WESD violated the religious rights of ACU and Christian students there.
LGBTQ+ discrimination concerns prompted decision to not renew the agreement
We first reported on the lawsuit between ACU and WESD in March. The lawsuit was filed after the district's governing board voted in late February to reject a renewal agreement for Student Teacher Placement with Arizona Christian University.
The agreement with ACU, according to information obtained on the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board website, was one of three affiliation agreements that were approved by WESD's Governing Board on Feb. 22, 2018. The other two agreements were made with American Indian College and Phoenix College.
Under the agreement, student teachers will be able to get educational experience at WESD schools, which may qualify for ACU academic credit. For the school district, the partnership also helped alleviate a growing teacher shortage.
The President of ACU said more than 100 students have served the district, and 25 were hired full time by the district after graduation.
While a recommendation was made for WESD's Governing Board to approve the renewal agreement, Tamillia Valenzuela, according to meeting minutes, made a motion to reject the renewal agreement.
The board members, three of whom identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, said that having student teachers with biblical values in the state’s largest elementary school district is too dangerous.
ACU student handbook states opposition to same-sex marriage, same-sex sexual behavior
According to ACU's Student Handbook for the 2021-2022 school year, the school states that it believes "God has ordained and created marriage to exist between one man and one woman, with absolute marital fidelity."
"The Bible sets forth specific home and family values, which include the distinct roles of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and children. It is our firm conviction that we uphold the dignity of each individual as we embrace the unchanging and longstanding principles of scriptural truth. These principles have been consistently taught and enforced since the University was found in 1960, and are essential to ACU’s religious and educational purposes," read a portion of the handbook.
In addition, the handbook states that members of the ACU community should resist and refrain from any and all sexual acts outside marriage. The handbook lists a number of sexual acts that ACU community members should avoid, which includes same-sex sexual acts.
In addition, ACU's handbook also states the college's non-discriminatory policy, which does not cover sexual orientation.
The extended agreement, as posted on WESD's Government Board website, did contain a term that requires student teachers to, in addition to perform with high standards at all times, comply with "all written policies and regulations of the appropriate department of the facility."