Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
March 9, 2012
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Ellis Chides TAPPS Over Iman Academy Decision, Urges Greater Sensitivity

Private school organization's rejection of Islamic school raises questions

(AUSTIN, TX) — Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today released the following letter to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, urging greater sensitivity in their membership interview and decision-making process.

March 9, 2012

Mr. Edd Burleson
Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools
601 North Main
P.O. Box 1039
Salado, TX 76571

Dear Mr. Burleson:

I write to express my concern over the treatment of Iman Academy's effort to join the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. These young Texans simply want the opportunity to compete with their peers across the state, and I am troubled by not just their rejection for membership but the reported insensitivity with which it occurred.

For the second time in a week, the views and rules of your organization have clashed with the reality of a changing Texas and have put your organization center stage in the discussion of religious freedom and the best interest of our children. I know you and TAPPS understand the importance of athletic competition in the development of young people in their journey toward adulthood; after all, it is one of the main goals of TAPPS. What I fear you fail to understand is the role athletics play in breaking down barriers and bridging the differences between peoples and cultures, and how your decisions can further prejudice and discrimination.

Throughout history, athletic competition has been played a huge role in bringing people together. From Jackie Robinson to Billie Jean King, Tiger Woods to Jeremy Lin, sports have helped us see the best in ourselves and the similarities we have with those of different backgrounds and beliefs. Even today, Hakeem Olajuwon — an African and Muslim — remains one of the most popular figures in Houston and all of Texas, which would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. No law, no speech and no sermon from the pulpit does more to unite people and teach the valuable lessons of community than competing on the playing field. The next revered superstar could be playing at Iman Academy, or Beren Academy. Or, more likely, two young people who have grown up distrustful of someone of another culture could meet on the court and gain more understanding and respect for their fellow person and neighbor.

That is what sports do for us.

Texas is an incredibly diverse and multi-cultural state, and is growing more so literally every day. These conflicts and confusions are only going to become more commonplace in the decade ahead as Texas grows and changes further. Now is the time for your organization to put in place better and more open guidelines and bylaws to prevent further embarrassing and insensitive incidents that put both TAPPS and Texas in a negative light. I would like to renew my invitation to host a lunch with yourself and TAPPS Board Members to discuss how we can prevent these issues from reoccurring. I ask that you contact my office at your convenience.


[Signature: Rodney Ellis]
Rodney Ellis