School Board Member Views ‘Biblically Minded’ Teachers as a Threat to Students
In late February, the Washington Elementary School District (WESD) held a meeting in which an Arizona school board member, who appeared in front of her colleagues wearing cat ears, voiced her opposition to the renewed contract for student teachers with Arizona Christian University (ACU), due to the institution’s biblical values.
Tamillia Valenzuela, who “proudly identifies as part of the Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities,” claimed that she was “disheartened” by the news because of the stark contrast between ACU’s values and WESD’s values. She prefaced her concerns with her support of “religious freedom and people being able to practice whatever faith that they have,” but ultimately turned the board’s attention to ACU’s core commitments.
“Part of their values is, ‘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,’” Valenzuela read. According to her, these values contradict the mission of the WESD, which is to achieve “excellence for every child, every day, every opportunity.” She then attempted to further her point by alluding to the inclusiveness of the board who added their pronouns on the dais, insinuating that a continued partnership with ACU would not mirror that inclusiveness.
Claiming that valuing the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman supposedly excludes LGBTQ members, Valenzuela views the partnership of ACU with WESD as a threat to the safety of students. She argued that maintaining a connection with ACU would make “other queer kids, who are already facing attack from our lawmakers, [feel] that they could not be safe in this community.” She also emphasized the word “every” in WESD’s mission, arguing that having “biblically minded” teachers in the WESD would not be a beneficial experience for those who do not participate in the Christian faith.
As a result of the meeting and Valenzuela’s input, the board decided to annul their partnership with ACU. In a statement to Fox News, they wrote that their decision was “based on the board’s commitment to create a safe place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community.”
“This story is just another example of the Left’s opposition to diversity,” Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm told The Washington Stand. “The story does not include any examples of students or teachers mistreating anyone. Instead, the goal here is to avoid ever having to be in a room with someone they disagree with because they interpret that as violence.”
ACU is publicly known as a Christian institution and their website explicitly states that they consist of students and professors who “are serious about deepening their Christian faith and where relationships and community matter most.” They have partnered with WESD for the last five years and more than 100 students have served the district. To ACU president Len Munsil, the district’s decision to discontinue their relationship does not make sense considering past experiences.
“Administrators have time and again asked us to send more ACU students because of the quality of our students’ work and their love and servant’s hearts for all,” he said in a statement to TWS. “The school board’s recent decision to ban ACU students from serving as student teachers was done for one reason only: our university’s commitment to our Christian convictions. That’s wrong, it’s unlawful, and it will only hurt the district’s students.”
This turn of events also raises concern among church leaders, specifically Steve Riggle, pastor of Grace Woodlands Church in Houston. “It’s time for people to stand up and to push back in a way that makes a difference,” he said on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.” Riggle’s solution to “turn the tide for a generation” starts by taking “control of the education.”
President Munsil is actively working to do just that by ensuring that biblically minded students have an equal chance to teach in the district. “Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are bedrock American principles,” he noted. “We are exploring our options to defend the rights of our students.”