A legal group has alleged that a Massachusetts school board has stopped a private Christian school from opening due to the school’s religious beliefs regarding evolution and sexuality.
The school board report that was issued prior to the denial includes those beliefs as part of a list of concerns but also includes questions about the planned school’s long-term ability to operate and provide services to students with special needs.
Vidal Real Church, which is a primarily Hispanic congregation, had aimed to start a Christian school called Real Life Learning Center (RLLC) in Spring 2021. The plan, however, has been obstructed by the Somerville Public School Committee. The committee includes seven elected officials in addition to the mayor and city council president.
Christian Headlines reports that the church is being represented by the non-profit legal organization, First Liberty, which contacted the school district through an 11-page letter on March 30.
First Liberty Institute, which is representing the church, sent an 11-page letter to the school district on March 30, alleging violations of state law and the U.S. Constitution. It was signed by representatives of First Liberty and the Massachusetts Family Institute.
The church had submitted its application in September 2021.
A report approved by the Somerville Public School Committee this year claimed the school “does not meet the criteria” for approval. Among other things, the report faulted the school’s beliefs on sexuality and evolution.
“The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make[s] it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible,” the report said. “The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful.”
One committee member allegedly said that blocking the application was the “morally right thing to do.”
The School Committee’s subcommittee that issued the report ultimately resulting in the denial noted that some pertinent questions, including about the school’s financial solvency, physical plant, or plans for student special education intervention, were largely unresolved in the application. First Liberty Institute quoted from the report in its letter.
There are no accommodations for students enrolled in special education, or students not making academic progress. There are no details about assessments or how the school will use assessments to improve student outcomes. There is no detail about the ways staff will be supported. It is not clear how the application process will result in a diverse set of applicants. It is not clear that the facilities are appropriate for younger students, and it is not clear what the facilities look like when the students are there. The school’s position on homosexuality and creationism make it difficult to see how a thorough science and health curriculum is possible. The school’s approach to student services and counseling appears to devalue evidence-based psychology and its emphasis on approaches rooted in the belief that mental illness is caused by sin and demons is unscientific and harmful. The school failed to provide evidence related to the safety of the physical plant and financial solvency. Overall, the school was entirely contrary to the values of SPS and the idea of educating the whole child as being inclusive.
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