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By Jason Barry
GLENDALE, Arizona (KPHO, KTVK) -- School districts across the state work with many colleges and universities to recruit and train teachers. But there’s one relationship coming to an end. The Washington Elementary School Board in Glendale just decided to stop bringing in student-teachers from nearby Arizona Christian University. And that’s not going over well with parents like Kalyn Foggy. “Teachers are stretched so thin right now, doing the best they can,” said Foggy. “To turn people away based on deeply personally held beliefs is just wrong.”
School Board members stated during their Feb. 23 meeting that the district’s values don’t align with ACU, an institution that instructs students and faculty to spread their religious beliefs and requires them to sign a statement of faith that has anti-LGBTQ principles.
Jeanne Woodbury, interim executive director of Equality Arizona, says that ACU’s core beliefs violate the school district’s non-discrimination policies. “This isn’t about excluding anyone of faith from being a teacher in a public school,” said Woodbury. “It’s about the legal problem of having a legal contract with religious institution.”
Arizona Christian University released this statement:
“For years Arizona Christian University has partnered with the Washington Elementary School District. More than 100 ACU students have served the district, including 25 student teachers, many of whom were hired full time after graduation. 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. “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. “Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are bedrock American principles. We are exploring our options to defend the rights of our students.”
More than 100 student teachers have served in the Washington Elementary School district over the past five years. WESD Governing Board President Nikkie Gomez-Whaley released this statement on behalf of the Governing Board:
“The Washington Elementary School District (WESD) Governing Board is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all our students, families, and staff. While we recognize the right of individuals to practice their faith, public schools are secular institutions. To that end, the board unanimously voted to discontinue its partnership with Arizona Christian University (ACU) whose policies do not align with our commitment to create a safe place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community. This is not a rejection of any particular faith as we remain open to partnering with faith-based organizations that share our commitment to equity & inclusion.”
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