Briarcrest Christian School

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Briarcrest Christian School
Main entrance to East Memphis campus
Eads and Memphis, Tennessee
Coordinates 35°06′52″N 89°51′59″W / 35.1145364°N 89.8663037°W / 35.1145364; -89.8663037Coordinates: 35°06′52″N 89°51′59″W / 35.1145364°N 89.8663037°W / 35.1145364; -89.8663037
School type Private coeducational
Motto With Men, This Is Impossible; But With God, All Things Are Possible. Matthew 19:26
Religious affiliation(s) Non-denominational Christian
Established 1973
Founder W. Wayne Allen
Principal Eric Sullivan
Grades PK–12
Enrollment 1600
Color(s) Green and gold          
Nickname Saints

Briarcrest Christian School is a private, coeducational, Christian school in Shelby County, Tennessee. The school was founded after the racial integration of public schools and has been described as a segregation academy. Briarcrest has two campuses—a K-12 campus in Eads and a K-5 campus in Memphis.



The school was founded in 1973 after the racial desegregation of Memphis City Schools. While it had an open-admissions policy, it had no black students and was viewed at the time as a segregation academy.[1][2][3]:33-36

East Park Baptist Church established the Briarcrest Baptist School System in 1973 as a system of segregation academies in response to the court-ordered racial integration of public schools.[1][4] In the fall of that year, Briarcrest narrowly won an auction to buy land to build a high school campus in East Memphis, beating out a Jewish group that sought to build a synagogue. School officials described the victory as a divine intervention in favor of Christianity over Judaism.[3]:35

Briarcrest's initial faculty consisted of teachers who left public schools after racial desegregation. Principal Joseph Clayton said he and others wanted to be "back among their own" with "less fear, less culture shock" and more "cultural homogeneity".[3]:54 In 1973, the school launched with programs for kindergarten through grade 8. Grades 9–12 were added the following year. In its early years, Briarcrest held elementary-grade classes in 11 Southern Baptist churches throughout the Memphis area, paying minimal rent so it could concentrate capital spending on its high school campus.[3]:36

None of the 3,800 students enrolled in Briarcrest in 1979 were black.[5][6] Memphis NAACP chair Maxine Smith described the school as a "bastion of white segregation in a city with a 40% black population".[7] The chairman of the school board, W. Wayne Allen, said that the school's attempts at outreach were foiled by the black community, whose children were "pressured into staying away, feeling they'd be Uncle Toms if they came."[4] In 1984 a group of black parents sued Allen in his official capacity, alleging that the school held discriminatory policies that require the revocation of its federal tax-exempt status. The case, Allen v. Wright, was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, which held that the parents did not have standing to challenge the IRS ruling on the school's tax status.[8] Afterward, Allen said he was glad the tax code could not be "used as a weapon" by those who disagreed with the school's "policies or politics."[9] Briarcrest's history of racial segregation was the basis for the fictional "Wingate Christian School" in the film The Blind Side (2009).[10][11] Briarcrest officials said they did not permit the use of the school's real name because they felt that the script took excessive artistic license.[12]


By 1988 the school's enrollment had dwindled to 1,473 students and the school was in a precarious financial situation. School leaders feared the school would not have funds to reopen after the 1988–89 Christmas break, but a combination of teacher layoffs, staff pay cuts, and emergency fundraising allowed the school to continue classes.[13] In 1989 the school split from the founding church and re-chartered as an independent school under the name Briarcrest Christian School. Over the next 20 years, the school grew to 1,600 students and spent $43 million to build its campus.[14]

Program and facilities[edit]

Values, programs[edit]

Briarcrest is a non-denominational Christian school. All students attend weekly chapel services, study the Bible, and are encouraged to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The school professes to teach Christian values and biblical morals; citing biblical verses, it forbids students to make statements in support of abortion, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, same-sex attraction, and alternate gender identity.[15] When the school was founded, the administration screened teachers to ensure that all faculty believed in creationism and would not teach the theory of evolution.[3]:63

Briarcrest offers honors, advanced placement, and dual enrollment classes. Fine arts programs begin in preschool and continue through grade 12 in visual arts, choral music, instrumental music, general music, and theater arts. The Memphis campus serves pre-k through grade 5 and the Eads campus serves pre-k through grade 12.

Accreditation and affiliations[edit]

The school has dual accreditation from the Southern Association of Independent Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Briarcrest is also a member of the Association of Christian Schools International, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, Memphis Association of Independent Schools, and the College Board.


Briarcrest participates in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) Division II West AA for large schools, competing with both private and public schools in the region. Since 1998, Briarcrest has won nine state championships (six of which, two in football and four in girls' basketball, were coached by former Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze). The school offers athletic programs, including marching band, football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, cross country, golf, bowling, swimming, trap shooting, softball, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, track, tennis, and cheerleading.

In 2017, Freeze resigned abruptly from Ole Miss after "a pattern of personal misconduct" came to light.[16] Soon thereafter, some female former Briarcrest students alleged that Freeze had engaged in inappropriate conduct with them at the school.[16][17] A Briarcrest spokeswoman said, "We are totally unaware of any allegations against Coach Freeze regarding any kind of inappropriate personal conduct while he was here at Briarcrest.”[18]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kravitz, Mark R; Mutter, Carol A (1974). "Desegregation of Private Schools: Section 1981 as an Alternative to State Action". Georgetown Law Journal. 62: 1365, note 15. ISSN 0016-8092. Retrieved 2018-05-01. The term 'segregation academy' in the South has come to mean an institution which is one of 'a system of private schools operated on a racially segregated basis as an alternative available to white students seeking to avoid desegregated public schools.' Coffey v. State Educ. Fin. Comm'n, 296 F. Supp. 1389, 1392 (S.D. Miss. 1969).
    "The quality of instruction, teachers, and physical plant varies widely among such schools. Some private white schools are well-equipped and boast an excellent staff. For example, the Briarcrest Baptist School System, Inc., in Memphis, Tennessee, offers all the standard academic subjects in addition to religious training. All of Briarcrest's staff are certified by the state, and 20 hold master's degrees. Wall Street Journal, supra note 14, at 1, col. 4. However, many southern private schools are woefully inadequate.
  2. ^ White, Jack (December 15, 1975). "Segregated Academies", Time magazine. "TIME Correspondent Jack White has been investigating the 'segregation academies' ... Briarcrest Baptist High School, which opened two years ago after the courts ordered busing in the Memphis schools, has just about everything: a lavish $6.5 million building with earphones dangling from the ceiling in language labs, en electric kiln for would-be potters and an enthusiastic and well-educated corps of teachers (40% have master's degrees). ... What Briarcrest lacks, however, is blacks. All of its 1.432 students and 69 faculty and staff members are white.

    "Many of the new private schools, like Briarcrest, insist that they have 'open' admissions and are segregated only because no blacks have applied. But they conceded that white hostility to desegregation accounts for much of their growth."

  3. ^ a b c d e Nevin, David; Bills, Robert (1976). The schools that fear built: segregationist academies in the South. Washington: Acropolis Books. ISBN 0874911796. OCLC 751608233. 
  4. ^ a b Crespino, Joseph (2007). In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution. Princeton University Press. p. 248. ISBN 0691122091. 
  5. ^ Testimony of W. Wayne Allen to House Ways & Means Committee hearings on the tax exempt status of private schools (February 21, 1979) [1]
  6. ^ Peshkin, Alen (1993). "Fundamentalist Christian schools: Should they be regulated?". In Francis, Leslie J; Lankshear, David W. Christian perspectives on church schools : a reader. Leominster: Gracewing. p. 286. ISBN 0852442351. OCLC 29518787. 
  7. ^ "Baptist School Groups Denies Racial Bias". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. January 4, 1979. p. 7. 
  8. ^ Allen v. Wright, 468 US 737
  9. ^ "Parent calls decision 'Wrong' in tax exemption challenge". The Tennessean. July 5, 1984. p. 9 – via 
  10. ^ Leonard, David J.; George, Kimberly B.; Davis, Wade (2016). Football, Culture and Power. Routledge. p. 85. ISBN 9781317410881. 
  11. ^ Sexton, Jared (2017). "Origins and Beginnings: On The Blind Side". Black Masculinity and the Cinema of Policing. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. pp. 89–120. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-66170-4_4. ISBN 9783319661698. 
  12. ^ Wade, Don (November 24, 2009). "Briarcrest opted out of feature role in 'The Blind Side'". Memphis Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  13. ^ Durando, Stuart (February 9, 1989). "Briarcrest looks toward future". Germantown News. p. 1 – via 
  14. ^ Wade, Don (February 3, 2010). "Briarcrest sees more growth in future". The Commercial Appeal. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Biblical Principles Policy". 
  16. ^ a b Peter, Josh (July 29, 2017). "Who is Hugh Freeze? Conflicting views of former Ole Miss coach emerge". USA Today. 
  17. ^ Heim, Mark (July 31, 2017). "Hugh Freeze stories emerge from former female students at Briarcrest Christian". 
  18. ^ Giannotto, Mark (July 24, 2017). "At Briarcrest Christian School, Hugh Freeze's legacy is everywhere". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 2018-05-29. 
  19. ^ Holthouse, David (October 1, 2007). "Racist Memphis Radio Host Celebrated at Council of Conservative Citizens Conference". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  20. ^ Cacciola, Scott (21 October 2014). "Hugh Freeze, Coach at Ole Miss, Follows an Unlikely Blueprint". NY Times. Retrieved 15 December 2017. 
  21. ^ Greg Hardy. "Greg Hardy, DE for the Carolina Panthers at". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  22. ^ "409: Site not active". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  23. ^ [2] Archived March 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Borzello, Jeff (November 5, 2012). "Austin Nichols surprisingly chooses Memphis over Tennessee". CBS Sports. Retrieved October 24, 2015. 
  25. ^ Michael Oher (1986-05-28). "Michael Oher, T for the Baltimore Ravens at". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  26. ^ Holmes, Linda (2011-02-08). "Beyond 'The Blind Side,' Michael Oher Rewrites His Own Story : Monkey See". NPR. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 

External links[edit]