by Jessica Zisko
December 11, 2005 — University of California officials say some lessons in Christian school textbooks don’t meet their admissions standards.
Their belief has led to a lawsuit that pits the public university system against six students of a Christian school who say their religious views hurt their chances of being accepted for enrollment by the university.
The lawsuit highlights a growing nationwide clash over what, and how, high school students should learn before college.
University officials argue that they have a right to set admissions standards to ensure that students are ready for college and say they consistently reject courses from both public and private schools for not meeting those benchmarks.
“There is a trend in higher education to eliminate God from everything,” says Robert Tyler, one of Calvary Chapel Christian School’s attorneys.
The suit, scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, centers on three classes offered at the Murrieta, Calif., school that university officials have refused to certify for admissions credit.
High school students who want to attend a university must complete a sequence of university-approved college-preparatory courses. The lawsuit says the university system discriminated against the Christian students by refusing to certify the classes, therefore preventing them from taking the Calvary courses they want.
The Murrieta students’ lawsuit addresses one literature and two history courses that university officials have refused to certify, identifying them and the textbooks they use as biased or contradictory to knowledge “generally accepted” in the collegiate community, according to the suit.
The outcome of the court battle could have powerful ramifications for admissions policies at other public universities because the 10-campus University of California is considered a flagship system nationwide, specialists say.
“The UC is so important that other universities will follow what they do,” said Steven Roy Goodman, a Washington-based educational consultant who has advised college-bound students on applications for nearly two decades.
Christian-education advocates also are watching. They say a defeat for their side could undermine the ability of Christian schools to teach their beliefs because students would have less access to a University of California education.
The Calvary students, their school and the Association of Christian Schools International filed the lawsuit.
None of the students has been rejected by the university. Two are seniors and will apply this winter. The others are juniors and sophomores who plan to apply.
The suit lists Cody Young as one of the students. The senior plays on the varsity basketball team and has high test scores. He hopes to study aerospace engineering at the University of California at San Diego.