MEMPHIS, Tenn. — TSSAA’s executive director responded to a letter from Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray Tuesday.
Monday, Shelby County Schools announced that Superintendent Ray sent an open letter to officials at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) about concerns he has regarding decisions that “do not reflect the best interests of all Tennessee student-athletes.”
“As the leader of the state’s largest school district, I have grown increasingly concerned by the TSSAA’s inattention to equity and the impact of antiquated rules and regulations that penalize our students, particularly students of color from disadvantaged homes and neighborhoods,” said Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray. “In no way does our call to action mean that athletic competition has come to an end. While the fall season has not started, conditioning will continue as previously stated. I want to make it clear that we stand with all athletes and coaches. ‘We want to play’ when it’s safe and will ensure our student-athletes have an opportunity to showcase their talents for potential post-secondary endeavors.”
Executive Director of TSSAA Bernard Childress responded by saying, “The letter addresses some matters that remain in litigation and about which TSSAA will not comment, nor will TSSAA dignify with a response the wholly unwarranted assertion that TSSAA has been inattentive to equity and the impact of its rules on students of color. However, TSSAA does want to respond to the criticism of its regulations and guidelines for returning to interscholastic athletic competition. That criticism is unfounded and is based on mistaken assumptions of the underlying facts.”
Childress said TSSAA believes its regulations and guidelines represent “best practices” for a return to athletic competition at the secondary school level and are based on currently available information from a wide array of resources,
“The TSSAA regulations and guidelines give schools an opportunity to play if they so desire, but the ultimate decision about whether to do so and whether to implement additional safety measures is left to local school officials,” said Childress.
Childress went on to say, “If the member schools in the Shelby County Schools want to propose changes to TSSAA rules, the TSSAA Constitution provides an established method for them to do so. A vague demand which leaves it to others to try to fashion language that will satisfy that demand, coupled with a veiled threat to withdraw from TSSAA, is not the way to accomplish change.”
Dr. Ray tweeted in response to Childress Tuesday night saying, “Inequity concerns should be addressed and not perceived as threats.”
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