Ventura County Christian School has agreed to settle a dispute with the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) over religious bias claims and the occupancy of a historic building.
In March, the Christian school accused the district of engaging in religious bias, saying the district’s claim that a building rented to Ventura County Christian was unsafe was used as a pretext to discriminate against the school.
According to the new settlement, the Christian school will vacate the building at the end of the school year in return for a release from its lease, along with release from back rent obligations and any future rent due under the lease, reports the Ventura County Star.
Ten months of back rent equals about $120,000, said the school’s attorney, which the district will forgo. The Christian school previously paid $24,000, or two month’s rent, for the property before the district tried to evict the school.
Under the terms of the settlement, the school will also drop the charges of religious bias, and stop the process of getting an historic designation for the building to protect the school’s occupancy.
The school said the dispute began after the district refused to release it from anti-discrimination clauses that are typically waived for religious institutions.
“VUSD refused [to waive] and this appears to be the motivating reason, VUSD changed course and has abruptly attempted to terminate their tenancy,” said a letter by the Christian school’s attorney to David A. Soldani, whose firm represented VUSD.
Attorney Ron Bamieh, who represented the school in the suit, also accused the district of trying to close down the school because of plunging enrollment in its public schools.
The district superintendent refused multiple interview requests by the Ventura County Star, but did send an email in response to inquiries by the newspaper. In the email, the superintendent said the district currently has no plans for the property.
The suit was exacerbated because the district notified the school of the termination of the lease just days before the school year started in August of last year.
The school had already signed a two-year lease and made payments to the district under the lease, and felt it had no other option but to defy the district orders to evacuate the building.
The first day of class featured children with noses pressed up against windows, as TV crews, parents and journalists assembled outside the school to address the dispute between the district and the school.
Under the settlement agreement the school will be allowed to occupy the building until July, provided they assume all liability and obtain insurance.
It’s unclear where the school relocate for the next school year.