Arizona State Sen. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) released a statement Friday calling for Tamillia Valenzuela to resign from the Washington Elementary School District (WESD) Governing Board after making anti-Christian remarks during a recent meeting.
“While we’re facing a shortage of teachers, Valenzuela is impugning the motives of teachers with certain religious beliefs. This is NOT what our country was founded on,” said Kern.
I am requesting the immediate resignation of @WESDschools School Board Member Tamillia Valenzuela! Discrimination based on religious beliefs is wrong! #1A @AZSenateGOP @AZGOP @FoxNews @broomheadKTAR @shirysapir pic.twitter.com/sRtPqWabmu
— Anthony Kern (@anthonykernAZ) March 3, 2023
As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, the WESD board recently cut ties with Arizona Christian University (ACU). The former contract allowed ACU student teachers to be placed in WESD classrooms for field experience. As Kern mentioned, Arizona is currently facing a teacher shortage. The Arizona School Personnel Administration Association (ASPAA) recently found that over 25 percent of teacher vacancies in the state are unfilled, and 44 percent of vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements.
Nonetheless, the WESD governing board severed the contract with ACU by a unanimous vote on February 23rd. During the meeting, Valenzuela actively spoke against the agreement with ACU. She pointed to the University’s commitment to Christian values, such as the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
“While I full-heartedly believe in the religious freedom and people being able to practice whatever faith that they have, I had some concerns regarding looking at this particular institution,” Valenzuela said during the meeting.
While Valenzuela said she understands that the state faces a teacher shortage, she said that ACU’s values left no room for people of other beliefs. Additionally, she said she would feel unsafe as a member of the LGBTQ community if the contract continued.
“At some point, we need to get real with ourselves and take a look at who we’re making legal contracts with and the message this is sending to our community. Because that makes me feel like I could not be safe in this school district,” said Valenzuela.
In response, Kern said that Valenzuela’s words jeopardize the freedoms allotted under the First Amendment by targeting and discriminating against people based on their religious beliefs.
“This is absolute discrimination, and somebody like this should not be making decisions for Arizona and Arizona families,” Kern said. “If she does not resign within the next 24 hours, I’m calling on the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board to remove her from her duties. She is no longer serving Arizona, Arizona families or Arizona children well.”
However, Nikkie Gomez-Whaley, President of the WESD Governing Board, told The Sun Times via email that the board has no authority to remove a member because they are all elected officials.
Valenzuela was elected to her position in the November 2022 General Election, and her term ends in 2027.
Moreover, Kern is not the only Arizona Official who seems to disapprove of Valenzuela’s comments. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) tweeted in response that comments against someone’s religion are “profoundly immoral.”
Any negative reference to someone’s religion is profoundly immoral. As a Jewish person, I will quote a Jewish proverb: “He who wishes to receive respect must give respect.” Every human being must be treated with equal dignity. https://t.co/iyxVvuobsw
— SPI Tom Horne (@RealTomHorne) March 3, 2023
As reported by AZ Family, following the meeting, both entities released a statement regarding the contract ending. ACU shared that over 100 ACU students have worked with the district in the past years, and many went on to be hired full-time after graduation. The University said the district banned ACU students because of its religious beliefs and said it would be exploring options to defend “the rights of our students.” On the other hand, the WESD said the decision was not a rejection of any particular faith but an effort to make the district a “safe place” for LGBTQ students and staff.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Anthony Kern” by Anthony Kern. Photo “Tamillia Valenzuela” by Washington Elementary School District. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.