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The following was written by a parent of a student at Takoma Academy
at the time that these events took place.
This Memo was sent to the Principal in early January 2011
so that it could be distributed to members of the Board of Trustees
prior to their meeting on January 31, 2011.

Recently (2010), Takoma Academy (TA) proposed a new policy that will prohibit its student athletes from participating in the church-sponsored Athletic League. The issue before the Board of Trustees is whether mandating students to choose between church-sponsored activities and school activities furthers TA’s Mission in guiding students in developing a meaningful relationship with God and His church. The negative conclusion is compelling, that any Adventist school should not force its students to choose between a church-sponsored activity and school activity because the very Mission of the Church and TA is to encourage student involvement in both church and school activities as a way to lead our young people to Jesus Christ.
  The School Board Possesses The Authority To Implement School Policies For TA
The authority to enact and implement policies for the school is vested solely in the school board. (See Maryland School Law Deskbook (2010)). Principals do not possess the unilateral authority to create and implement new school policies. Rather, the role of the principal is to provide instructional leadership and manage the day-to-day activities in schools. (See United States Department of Labor, Occupational Handbook, 2010 - 2011). The Potomac Conference, the parent body of this Board, applies the same principle as the United States Department of Labor and the State of Maryland. According to the Potomac Conference Bylaws, it is the School Board who solely has the responsibility of creating and implementing school rules, policies and practices. (See Potomac Conference Bylaws art. IX, § 1, stating that “the operation of each school [in the Potomac Conference] is based on the policies and practices of the Board and ensuring that all actions regarding [the] school are prudent and based on Christian ethics.) (emphasis added). Indeed, under the Board’s discretion, new policies are voted into existence by a majority vote of the Board. (See id. at art. 2, § 10 stating that “a majority vote” is needed to create a new binding policy in our schools).
Therefore, if this proposed policy is to be implemented into Takoma Academy’s Handbook of Policies and Procedures, it is the Board who must vote it into existence.
The Church Sponsored Basketball League Is An Adventist Youth Ministry
The Church sponsored league in question is the Metropolitan Area Adventist Basketball Association, (aka MAABA). The MAABA is a non-profit organization recognized, operated, and governed by the Youth Departments of Churches within the Allegheny East Conference and Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. MAABA has been in existence for over fifty years. (See MAABA, About Us, available at http://maaba.org/maaba/ ).  The purpose and objective of the MAABA is to promote and provide a safe, wholesome, and recreational Christian environment through basketball games for Seventh-day Adventists in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and its participating members.  The churches with youth teams in MAABA place a heavy emphasis on ministering to the young people of the church by strategically preparing tools within the practices and games to introduce the young people into a more meaningful relationship with Christ. Suffice to say, MAABA is a Christ-centered youth ministry geared towards fellowship and introducing young people to Christ.
Unlike most athletic programs, MAABA does not hold tryouts for its youth players. Any young person is welcomed to join the league and no one is turned away. (emphasis added). The league is divided by age, but both male and female are allowed to be on the same team. Again, the emphasis is not in winning. In MAABA, the emphasis, the intent, is youth ministry and allowing the church members to fellowship in a way that directly involves the young people.
The MAABA season comprises of only ten games per regular season. A typical season begins in late October and ends in late March. This averages out to two games per month. Coaches for the various teams in the league mainly comprise of the local elders, Pathfinder leaders, deacons and the like, most of which have little to no basketball training or experience in coaching. Practices are typically held to one day per week at most and coaches open practice with prayer and a devotional. Once the makeup of the church league and the intent of the church league are considered it becomes asinine to believe this basketball league is anything near comparable to high school athletics. Indeed, once the church-sponsored league is examined it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be concluded that there is a conflict in allowing students to participate in both programs when it is physically possible for them to do so.
The Proposed Policy Is In Direct Opposition To Biblical Doctrine, The Mission Of The Church, And The Mission Of Takoma Academy
The Bible, on which the Church stands, speaks of drawing people to Christ, not hindering them. (See, e.g., Luke 18:16, Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”). Yet this suggested policy which mandates young students to choose school athletics or the Church-sponsored activity will prevent TA’s young athletes from participating in an activity that was created to draw them to Christ. Before every season the coaches come together and think of ways to introduce Christ to the kids during the season. If only one young person during the course of a season hears something that ultimately leads to that young person giving his/her heart to Christ “there is joy in heaven.” (See Luke 15:7). The purpose of the league would have been accomplished. But mandating a TA athlete to choose between the Church and school roadblocks such an outcome from ever happening and negates the mission of the Church.
Implementing a policy that forces students to choose between school and church is in direct opposition to the Mission of the School. The Mission of Takoma Academy is “to guide students in developing a meaningful relationship with God, [and] their church.” (See TA Handbook, p. 5). It is physically possible for any Takoma Academy student to participate in both the church league and the school athletic program. There is no justifiable reason for implementing such a policy which mandates the student to choose. In fact, it is the duty of the school to encourage the students to participate in any and all church-sponsored programs because by doing so, the school is accomplishing its mission of assisting the students in developing a meaningful relationship with God and their church. (emphasis added).
new comment - -   The Suggested Policy Poses a Plethora of Constitutional Challenges
The proposed policy poses a plethora of constitutional challenges which open the door to future lawsuits against the school and the Church. While it is true that the Constitution provides for equal protection from the laws, the Constitution does not restrict private individuals from interfering with the rights of United States citizens. Therefore, Takoma Academy may legally invade the privacy rights of its students, interfere with the rights of parents to parent their children, and even implement discriminatory policies against its own students.
Implementing a policy with these constitutional violations, however, is not in the best interest of Takoma Academy and the Adventist Church for two reasons. First, that courts are reluctant to hear Constitutional violations from private institutions does not prevent parents and/or individuals from suing TA for blatant Constitutional infringements. Takoma Academy may succeed against such a suit, but the Church will still have to defend its position for creating such an infringement in the first place.
Not only that, but time and money will be spent defending the many lawsuits from angry parents and individuals. It is not unforeseeable that a parent or church will take issue with this proposed policy. Every parent has a right to parent his/her child without school interference. Every church has a right to minister to its young people without school interference. This policy directly interferes with a parent’s right to decide for his/her child and directly interferes with a church’s right to minister to its youth. At some point, Takoma Academy and the Adventist Church will have to defend its position in court if this policy is implemented.
Secondly, having to defend itself against Constitutional attacks will place the Adventist Church as a whole in a negative light in the public’s eye because it would be one of the only, if not the only high school in the county with such a provision. It is believed that high schools in Montgomery County hold a similar provision in their athletic department. This is simply not true. The Athletic Division in high schools throughout Montgomery County adopts a contractual agreement between the parents and its student athletes. Within this contract is a provision in which students agree that they will “not participate in more than one interscholastic sport in one season.” (See Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Student-Parent Athletic Participation Information, (2010) available at
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/athletics/forms/participation.pdf ). (emphasis added).
Montgomery County Public Schools do not restrict its student athletes from participating in other programs outside of its school division; certainly, they do not interfere with the students’ religious practices or the parents’ right to direct the activities of their children outside school hours. Indeed, Maryland school officials are fully aware that such a provision goes against the very heart of this country’s Constitution. Prince George’s County holds a similar policy and does not restrict its students from participating in and belonging to any outside organization, much less a church sponsored organization. No public institution can rightfully deny a student the right to participate in a church sponsored program. Likewise, TA should not prohibit its students from participating in our church sponsored programs.
There are many more compelling reasons as to why the Board should vote against such a policy mandate. Of all the compelling reasons, however, none is as compelling as hindering the young people from being involved in a program geared towards ministry. As an Adventist institution, such a policy must undergo strict scrutiny and pass the two-prong test of; 1) Does the proposed policy advance the Mission of the church? and 2) does the proposed policy tend to hinder or interfere with the Mission of the church? Here, the proposed policy fails both prongs. As such, it should not become a part of Takoma Academy’s Handbook governing our students; the Board should vote against it.
Above Memo was sent to David Daniels, Principal of Takoma Academy in January 2011
Published here with permission from the author. Return to Spotlight on Takoma Academy article

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