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Cat ears-wearing ‘neurodivergent’ school board member: Hiring Christian teachers is ‘not safe’

But board ‘remains open’ to partnering with those of faith who ‘share its commitment to equity & inclusion’

A “bilingual, disabled, neurodivergent queer black Latina” member of an Arizona school board — who wears cat ears — recently said she opposes having student teachers from a local Christian college in district schools due to their beliefs.

According to a Fox News report, Tamillia Valenzuela of the Washington Elementary School District Governing Board allegedly “blasted” the district’s now-dissolved years-long relationship with Arizona Christian University in part due to the institution’s belief in Jesus Christ and how such could affect the LGBTQ community.

“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 (pictured) said. “My concerns […] when I go to Arizona Christian University’s website, [they are] ‘committed to Jesus Christ, accomplishing his will and advancements on earth as in Heaven.’”

These include things such as “the centrality of family, traditional sexual morality, and lifelong marriage between one man and one woman.”

Washington Elementary’s Governing Board late last month voted unanimously to break off its relationship with ACU. Over 100 ACU student teachers had been placed in district schools in the last five years, AZFamily reports.

Valenzuela believes ACU student teachers might “influence” students and others to become “Biblically-minded.” She asked “How does that hold space for our members of the LGBT community? How does that space for people who think differently and do not have the same beliefs?”

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She added that continuing the contract with ACU would make her feel “like [she] could not be safe.”

Jeanne Woodbury of the group Equality Arizona claimed that “ACU’s core beliefs violate the school district’s non-discrimination policies.”

In a statement, ACU said “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.”

It added that it was “exploring options” to defend its students’ rights.

Washington Elementary Governing Board President Nikkie Gomez-Whaley (pictured) said the decision to end the contract with ACU was “not a rejection of any particular faith [because] we remain open to partnering with faith-based organizations that share our commitment to equity & inclusion.”

According to the district’s school board page, Valenzuela is a community activist who “loves seeing others […] lean into their power and learn how to navigate the systems that impact their daily lives.” Her Linkedin profile describes her as a “dope ass human” who “loves to write and exist.”

The Fox News story notes three of the Washington Elementary Governing Board (out of five) are “members of the LGBTQ community.”

MORE: North Dakota school board ditches Pledge of Allegiance due to ‘under God’

IMAGES: WESD screencaps; Tamillia Valenzuela WESD Board Member/Facebook screencap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.