Science

Suit Claims Anti-Religious Bias in Calif. System

By Sean Cavanagh — September 07, 2005 3 min read

The battle over what schools should teach about life’s origins has shifted to another front: the world of college admissions.

The Association of Christian Schools International has filed a federal lawsuit against the University of California system, charging that the institution’s high school course requirements for applicants violate the constitutional rights of students from religious schools.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, charges that UC unfairly rejects science courses that use textbooks casting doubt on evolution and espousing creationist beliefs. It also challenges the university system’s guidelines for course content in English, history, and social studies, in which the plaintiffs also claim anti-Christian bias.

“This is not in any sense [only] a creationism-versus-science suit,” said Wendell Bird, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

The case was filed Aug. 25 on behalf of Calvary Chapel Christian School, a religious K-12 school in Murrieta, Calif., and six families of students there. Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a religious organization based in Temecula, Calif., is also a plaintiff.

Universities “used to encourage innovation in teaching and learning,” Mr. Bird said last week. “Why would California need to intrude into what has always been a teacher and student question?”

Academic Preparation

The suit emerges as the theory of evolution—advanced by Charles Darwin and overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community—faces challenges in school districts and states.

In California, if public or private high schools want their graduates to be eligible for admission, they must submit course descriptions to the UC system for review and approval. A committee of university faculty members from different disciplines sets guidelines for those courses.

University officials say their goal is to ensure that students are academically prepared for college. Applicants to the nine undergraduate UC campuses, which serve roughly 150,000 students, are also judged by such factors as class rank and nonacademic criteria—an approach that is widely regarded as a model for public institutions nationwide.

UC system spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina declined to comment last week on the specifics of the lawsuit. But she said that the university accepts roughly 85 percent of all courses high schools submit, and that schools that have courses rejected can reapply. “We want to work with schools,” she said.

Other Subjects in Question

“We totally respect the rights of public and private schools,” Ms. Poorsina said. “We’re not looking to make this difficult for anyone, or any religion.”

The lawsuit says that UC administrators balked at the use of textbooks that advocated creationism, the belief that God created the universe and all living things as described in the Bible. One such textbook, according to the complaint, was published by Bob Jones University Press, which is associated with the well-known, Greenville, S.C.-based Christian institution.

History courses submitted for UC approval were also unfairly rejected, the lawsuit contends, because they did not conform to what university officials describe as “empirical historical knowledge.” Similarly, social studies and English courses were turned down because their coursework or texts were deemed biased or incomplete, the plaintiffs say.

None of the students in the lawsuit has been rejected yet for admission to UC, the plaintiffs ‘ lawyer said last week. But because of previous course rejections, the lawsuit argues, those students will be subject to even more-stringent entry requirements at UC, where admissions are already extremely competitive at several campuses.

Barmak Nassirian, an associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, in Washington, said he was not aware of a case that addressed the same legal issues as the California complaint. Other universities follow processes similar to the one UC uses, which, he said, are aimed at bringing uniformity and fairness to admissions.

Still, Mr. Nassirian said he was worried about the potential implications of asking a university to ignore its course requirements—which had been shaped by experts in various fields—in favor of a “free-for-all,” in which any interest group is allowed to shape policy.

“We’re being asked to treat the consensus of the scientific community as just another opinion,” he said of the lawsuit’s complaint about the teaching of evolution. Admissions officers “don’t call the shots,” he said. “We defer to the judgment of the faculty.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About STEM Best Practices?
Quiz Yourself: How well do you know STEM best practices?
Science Science Teaching and Learning Found to Fall Off in Pandemic
The pandemic could have been a shining moment for STEM learning. Instead, new studies find, students and teachers struggled.
5 min read
Ahasbai Guerrero studies shadows in Gennifer Caven's 3rd grade classroom at El Verano Elementary School in Sonoma, Calif. San Francisco's Exploratorium developed an inquiry-based curriculum that blends English and science lessons.
Third grader Ahasbai Guerrero studies shadows as part of a pre-pandemic science program at El Verano Elementary School in Sonoma, Calif. New research suggests hands-on lessons like this have been difficult during the pandemic.
Ramin Rahimian for Education Week
Science Opinion Working With the Likes of Lego, Disney, and Lucasfilm to Engage Students in STEM
Rick Hess speaks with FIRST's Erica Newton Fessia about inspiring young people's interest in STEM using team-based robotics programs.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Whitepaper
Improve language arts skills through science
In this white paper, learn how science can be an important part of the day by using a curriculum that includes communication, collaborati...
Content provided by Carolina Biological