The religious right seems to have exposed its latest strategy in Phoenix school boards: drain money out of public schools by attracting as many lawsuits as possible.
This is most apparent in Peoria Unified School District (PUSD), where we’ve counted 7 lawsuits that the district could face over constitutional violations, discrimination, and mistreatment of teachers.
Last week, members Rebecca Hill and Heather Rooks invited defamation lawsuits by entertaining accusations of misconduct levied against three teachers singled out by name. One was accused of showing vaguely-defined “sexually explicit” material (information about reproduction in a biology class); another for simply promoting International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Hill and Rooks tried to remove these teachers’ names from a rehire list under consideration at the meeting, then voted against approving the list altogether if they remained on it—effectively trying to hold 1,500 other employees’ contracts hostage.
Later, Hill and Rooks called for a policy to ban trans students from restrooms of their gender identity. Hill cited religious belief as justification, with no objective evidence of this being a problem that requires a solution through policy.
To cap it all off, Rooks once again illegally quoted scripture to students—despite having been advised several times not to.
That’s only part of the insanity at this meeting. Read about the whole thing in detail here.
Meanwhile, the north valley’s Washington Elementary School District (WESD) did the right thing a couple weeks ago by unanimously cancelling a contract with discriminatory religious school Arizona Christian University (ACU). The district is now being sued by ACU, but the public still has the district’s back, with lots of people (including a clergy member) speaking at last week’s meeting in support. There was also a tremendous outpouring of solidarity with board member Tamillia Valenzuela, who has been targeted by right-wing media over the issue because of her LGBTQ+ identity. Tamillia put the matter succinctly:
“Nobody on this board has stated that Christian teachers will no be allowed in this district. What has been said—because it appears that listening to actual words is not happening—is that an agreement with an institution that allows bigotry within its core values is what was terminated. There is a difference between institutional discrimination and personal discrimination. […] We are talking about an institution that has caused harm.”
WESD is a shining example of a place where voices like yours are making a huge difference in the fight for equality. Let’s keep board members in both districts hearing from us!
What you can do:
Show up, contact members, and get involved. If we don’t, the religious right will!
If you need help, we’re here for you at firstname.lastname@example.org