TAPPS leader dismisses criticism over Sabbath game

Posted April 01, 2012, at 8:30 p.m.

SALADO, Texas — The director of a Texas private school association that came under fire for refusing to reschedule a game held during the Sabbath says the Orthodox Jewish school should have never been allowed in his league.

“We shouldn’t have accepted them in the first place,” said Edd Burleson, director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

Burleson, 77, told The Dallas Morning News ( http://dallasne.ws/H6UmA4 ) in an interview published Sunday that he took calls from as far away as Australia during the backlash that erupted last month when TAPPS denied Beren Academy’s request to move a playoff basketball game.

Beren, an orthodox Jewish school in Houston with fewer than 250 students, joined TAPPS in 2011. Players on the basketball team observe the Sabbath between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday, and TAPPS ultimately rescheduled the game after parents filed a lawsuit.

Burleson, who believes TAPPS would have prevailed in court, said he has no regrets about how the dispute was handled.

“What else would you want me to say?” Burleson said. “Want me to come up with some politically correct gobbledygook? I can’t. I’m telling you that’s how I feel.”

TAPPS represents more than 200 private schools with almost 40,000 students statewide. Member schools are overwhelmingly Christian, and last month’s uproar brought up accounts of TAPPS previously rejecting a few Muslim schools.

The Texas Catholic Conference Education Department has sent a letter to TAPPS calling for a review of its operations after the Beren incident. Catholic schools comprise about 20 percent of the membership of TAPPS, which operates on an annual budget of less than $1 million.

Representatives of TAPPS schools met with Burleson last week to discuss the letter, in which the Catholic conference suggested they might withdraw its schools from TAPPS unless there were changes to structure and management.

Margaret McGettrick, the Catholic conference’s education director and author of the letter, insisted that now is the time for TAPPS to make a change.

“Back in 2010, when there was discussion about membership for the Muslim schools, Mr. Burleson told us very openly our country was under attack and we have to be very careful who we accept into TAPPS,” she said Thursday. “He was very open about his feelings then.”

McGettrick said the meeting gave her a sense that changes were forthcoming.

Burleson became TAPPS executive director in 1994. The former football coach led a small Texas public school to a state championship in 1969 and was superintendent of the Red Oak school district until 1989.

Burleson dismissed the critics as “outsiders” and said his mission was to serve his board of directors and his member schools.

“That’s who I answer to,” he said. “And I know this won’t sound good, but all I really have to please is the board. And really only five of them to have the majority.”

Rabbi Harry Sinoff, head of the upper school at Beren Academy, said Beren would like to remain a TAPPS member. The academy won the rescheduled state semifinal game but lost in the championship.

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