FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Six community college professors in the Central Valley have filed a lawsuit.
The lawsuit is challenging Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, or DEIA, standards for community college faculty.
The lawsuit was filed against the State Chancellor of California Community Colleges, the Chancellor of the State Center Community College District, and the SCCCD Board of Trustees.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or "F.I.R.E." is representing six full-time, tenured faculty members at Clovis, Madera and Reedley Community Colleges.
F.I.R.E attorneys say the regulations explicitly require professors to pledge allegiance to contested ideological viewpoints.
"The state does not get to tell you what you can and can't believe," said Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (F.I.R.E) Attorney Jessie Appleby.
Appleby says the requirements violate the first amendment rights of faculty based on their viewpoint and makes illegal speech that would otherwise be protected.
They also claim the language used in the DEIA rules are vague, a violation of the 14th amendment.
"We believe the regulations applied to college faculty are unconstitutional, pretty much across the board," Appleby said.
Reedley Community College Professor Bill Blanken is one of the plaintiffs.
He's been teaching chemistry full-time there for 15 years.
Blanken says the DEIA principals don't have any place in the chemistry classroom or laboratory.
"We need that time to deal with chemistry. Not this other stuff," Blanken said.
As a tenured employee, he must go through periodic evaluations.
He says his next evaluation will include a self-evaluation of how well he understands and incorporates the DEIA rules, something he believes will lead to discipline or possible termination if it doesn't reach the college's standards.
He wants the requirement and that portion of the evaluation removed.
"I want to be evaluated solely on the merits of how am I as a chemistry faculty in the teaching of the subject matter which is chemistry," Blanken said.
F.I.R.E has requested a temporary pause on the new DEIA requirements, while the case goes through court.
California Community Colleges says it does not comment on ongoing litigation, but documents filed in court show they are fighting back against the lawsuit.
SCCCD also filed documents in court.
SCCCD spokesperson Jill Wagner responded to ABC30's request for comment with the following statement.
"We will defend the District's implementation of the State's diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) regulations at the center of this litigation, which were revised following the Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement for the District. The DEIA regulations are the result of a collaborative effort with the State Center Federation of Teachers, which was ratified in April 2023 by the majority of the association and formally approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2023 to be implemented by colleges come October 2023.
"DEIA initiatives have sparked many important conversations spanning decades, and as this issue continues to evolve, efforts to address them will continue to be at the forefront. The District now and forever will be a welcoming place for a diverse population, with a commitment to access and inclusion."
Oral arguments were set to be heard by a judge a few weeks ago but were removed from the schedule.
Both sides are now waiting for the case to be rescheduled in court to present oral arguments to a judge.
The judge will then make a decision to grant to deny the temporary injunction.