ACSI v. Stearns - Coursework Subject Matter and Textbooks
Court’s Ruling on ACSI v. Stearns Lawsuit
Previous Court Decision
In August 2005, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, CA, and six Calvary Chapel students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. Plaintiffs challenge the process through which UC reviews high school courses submitted for approval as meeting the University’s college preparatory course requirements – known as the a-g requirements. UC evaluates high school courses to assure that they include appropriate subject-matter content and skills training to meet UC’s academic standards. These requirements are intended to ensure that incoming students are conversant with substantive content and methods of inquiry at the level required for UC students.
The plaintiffs claim that UC violated the freedom of speech and religion rights of some Christian schools when it concluded that some of their courses did not meet UC requirements for college preparation. They also allege that students who attend these schools are thereby discriminated against in the University’s admission process. UC contends that its course approval decisions were made based on neutral academic standards and that it must be permitted to apply those same academic standards to all schools and students who apply to UC.
UC welcomes students from a wide range of academic settings. Enrolling students from many different faiths and backgrounds enriches the University’s community and the learning experience of our students. In fact, UC accepts courses from hundreds of schools affiliated with many religious faiths. Statistics show that courses submitted for a-g approval from Christian schools are approved at the same rate as those submitted from other schools. Furthermore, the University offers multiple alternative ways for students to meet the UC system’s entrance requirements. Students whose schools do not offer an approved a-g course in one or more subjects have multiple alternative means to gain admission. For example, a student who has taken a laboratory science course, such as biology, that is not approved for “d” credit,” that student may satisfy the requirement by taking the SAT II in that subject and achieving a score of 530 or higher.
UC has approved 43 courses at Calvary Chapel as a-g college prep courses. Calvary Chapels applications for certain courses were not approved, for a number of reasons. In one case, a literature course was rejected because the use of an anthology as the only common assigned reading was in direct conflict with UCs policy that students read at least some assigned works in their entirety as part of the classroom instruction. Some of the courses rejected by UC used certain textbooks that UC determined, based on faculty review, did not meet UCs guidelines because their substantive content or teaching of skills was insufficient for a college preparatory course.
The question the University addresses in reviewing these texts is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide adequate instruction in the relevant subject matter, reflecting knowledge generally accepted in the scientific and educational communities and with which a student at the university level should be conversant. The University also evaluates whether textbooks and the courses that use them promote the type of analytic and critical thinking skills necessary for success at the University of California.
Summaries of experts’ reports and credentials
Francisco Ayala, UC Irvine – biology
John Douglass, Center for Studies in Higher Education – history of UC admissions
Donald Kennedy, Stanford – biology
Michael Kirst, Stanford – educational justification for A-G requirements
Gary Nash, UCLA – course on U.S. history
Samuel Otter, UC Berkeley – American literature
Mark Petracca, UC Irvine – course on American government
Robert Sharf, UC Berkeley – courses on religion
Fact sheet on lawsuit and UC policies for high-school course approval
ACSI complaint (Aug. 2005)
UC motion to dismiss (Oct. 28, 2005)
UC reply brief in support of motion to dismiss (Nov. 21, 2005)
Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Sep. 24, 2007)
Defendants Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Aug. 29, 2007)
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Sep. 12, 2007)
Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Aug. 8, 2007)
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Aug. 29, 2007)
Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Nov. 14, 2007)
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (May 28, 2008)
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Jun. 18, 2008)
Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Jul. 7, 2008)
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and Granting Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Mar. 31, 2008)
Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Aug. 8, 2008)
Background on UC eligibility and admissions process
UC guide on a-g course requirements
UC undergraduate admissions
Comprehensive review factors for freshman applicants