Ventura County Christian School is going to court after it claimed the Ventura Unified School District terminated its lease in a blatant case of religious discrimination.
“[The district] believes either that this school does not have a right to exist and worship as they see fit, or because they have a huge disenrollment problem and they want to get two hundred extra heads in their school,” said attorney Ron Bamieh, who represents the school in the suit.
The California school district has recently declared that the building leased to the Christian school is unsafe due to earthquake hazards – a contention that the school calls “pre-textual.”
Instead, the Christian school contends those concerns only cropped up after questions were raised about the school’s ability to “hire Christian-only staff and teachers.”
Bamieh claims that the district terminated the Christian school’s lease after the school asked the district to strike the word “religious” from its non-discrimination clause.
“VUSD refused and this appears to be the motivating reason, VUSD changed course and has abruptly attempted to terminate their tenancy,” said a letter by Bamieh’s firm to attorney David A. Soldani, whose firm represents VUSD.
The school says that an engineering report from 2003 found the school to be safe, while another report issued by a structural engineer on August 26, 2022, paid for by the school, confirmed that “the building is structurally sound and acceptable to occupy as a private elementary through high school.”
In September 2021, the district’s engineering firm found the building to be in good condition. However, the district requested another inspection in the midst of negotiations for the new lease, according to reporting by the Ventura County Star.
The new report suddenly contained a laundry list of safety deficiencies, none of which were age or use related and all of which predated the previous reports that found the building to be acceptable for use.
For example, one such deficiency noted: “The height-to-thickness proportions of the masonry and concrete shear walls are inadequate, with the ratio not meeting checklist requirements.”
Surrounded by families with children who attend the school, Bamieh said that the families had spent more than $3 million on improvements to the building to make sure the school was safe.
“Do you think that these people care less about their kids than the Ventura Unified District does?” asked Bamieh. “The arrogance to think they care more about these children than these people out here, shocks me.”
The original trial date was set for March 13 but then extended at the request of the school to the beginning of April to accommodate a jury trial, the County Star reports.
“They’re not making any political messages, they’re not taking any political stance. They’re just taking the stance that they have the right to educate their kids the way they see fit,” concluded Bamieh about Ventura County Christian.