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Before Beren

Meet Arlington Burton Adventist Academy, the school that had to deal with TAPPS’ reluctance to reschedule playoff games before Beren.

Before the Beren Academy boys basketball team captured national attention a few months ago, another school about 300 miles away lived a similar story.

But that school’s tale had a different ending.

While the Beren Stars eventually saw their season end with a loss in the state championship game, Arlington Burton Adventist Academy never got that chance in 2001.

Seventh-day Adventists, like many students at Beren, an Orthodox Jewish day school, observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, causing a conflict with state tournament scheduling.

“At 17 and 18, you want to play the game, and that’s really the thing you want to do,” said Gabriel Wade, a senior on Burton Academy’s 2001 team, which saw its season end with the forfeit of a playoff win. “But as you get older, you realize that you can set a standard and help the next guy. If that hadn’t happened to us and if Beren had been the first team that happened to, they probably wouldn’t have let them play.

“So I think it helped pave the way.”

After Burton forfeited another playoff win in 2004, the same fate nearly befell its soccer team in 2010. This time, however, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools made last-minute concessions. That precedent opened the door for Beren last month.

Burton’s experience, especially the exception that was made for them in 2010, was often mentioned during the Beren saga, but there were never many details about it that I could find. This story fills in the details, so I’m glad to find it. As was the case with Beren, the students who were affected by the decisions TAPPS made appear to have handled it with grace and maturity. We could all learn from these examples. Go read it, it’s worth your time.

Meanwhile, TAPPS members gathered together for a meeting to discuss future situations like those, among other things.

About four dozen administrators from as far away as Brownsville, Lubbock, Laredo and Houston met at a Central Texas convention center for what was described by several as a passionate but collegial meeting that they hope will help determine the future track of TAPPS, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

That future will include the appointment of a committee to review whether changes are needed in the TAPPS constitution and bylaws. However, there will be no immediate discussion of whether TAPPS should alter its membership guidelines or make scheduling accommodations to benefit schools where students observe days of worship other than Sunday.

Several administrators expressed support for Edd Burleson, the longtime TAPPS executive director, and said they hope TAPPS can take steps to improve its recent image in the wake of the controversy surrounding Beren Academy of Houston, where parents filed a lawsuit last month when the school’s basketball team was denied, briefly, a chance to move its playoff game scheduled during the Jewish Sabbath.

“There was no pounding of fists, no raising of voices,” said the Rev. Patrick Fulton, principal of Houston’s St. Thomas High School. “We are in this for the best interests of serving students.

“How we are going to do that is up for grabs, but we want to re-examine ourselves and make sure that we are serving students first and foremost.”

The athletic directors of both Beren and Burton were in attendance, and both of them had positive things to say about it afterward. I’m not convinced that the organization can solve its image problems while also being supportive of the main reason for those problems, but we’ll see. This meeting apparently resulted from the pushback from Catholic schools over TAPPS’ exclusionary policies, so kudos again to them for forcing the issue. I hope they can all come to a better understanding of each other.

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