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UPDATE: Christian academy denied access to FHSAA

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UPDATE: Florida High School Athletic Association has officially denied First Baptist's application to join the association Tuesday in the final Board of Directors' meeting of the year.

The academy will have the option to re-apply for the 2018-19 athletic season.

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School is over, and the Florida High School Athletic Association wrapped up end of the year championships recently. But one private christian school wanting to compete in those games is fighting to join the association.

Obviously not every team can win their way into the state tournament or the championship game at the end of the season. For some schools they don’t have a choice – or they do – and that is to wait.

First Baptist Christian Academy in Flagler County was one of the first schools to question why.

About 400 students attend the school mostly for a faith-based education, but many are being drawn away for their desire to play competitive sports. The school hopes to make their students decision to stay easier by expanding their options beyond basketball.

Headmaster, Dr. Jason Harrison said, “We’re strong in elementary and middle schools, but that gap between 8-9th grade is where we lose a lot of students. Because we can’t offer everything a public schools offer."

The academy applied to join the FHSAA. But after completing the application, they questioned some of the bylaws , specifically the policy that states each school much participate in a 2-year probation period before joining post-season play.

The academy requested a waiver to the policy, but the association denied it. The association said other schools, including both public and private, have complied with the same bylaws in the past and that it can not give any school preferential treatment.

The academy threatened litigation.

The association's executive director recommended the board not grant the school's membership because the school was fighting the bylaws it had already agreed to comply with.

First Baptist says they simply wanted to better comprehend the laws.

“We’re willing to comply," Harrison said, "We just don’t understand it. We’re very confused as to how asking question, seeking understanding and just saying how we don’t understand why this exist, denies us membership.”

In ruling against the school, the association said the academy signed an agreement saying they would comply with the bylaws but then argued against those same bylaws.

"I feel like the board of directors saw the contrast in those statements and thought it would be best to wait a year and have them reapply if they'd like to do that," said Kyle Niblett, FHSAA public relations.

The state law says any student can participate in athletics at their zoned public school.


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