Teen With Disability Denied Cheerleading Squad

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-05-2005
Teen With Disability Denied Cheerleading Squad
Wed, 05-22-2013 - 10:11am

MARION COUNTY -- The parents of a child with Down syndrome say their daughter is being excluded from trying out for her high school cheerleading team because of her disability. 

Brian and Lisa Williams said they want their daughter, Alison, to have the same opportunities as every other girl. Alison's mother said the 14-year-old loves cheerleading, and believes the activity benefits her daughter. 

"She'll watch the other girl beside her and try to do what she's doing. I think that's so important. I think they learn so much from their typical peers," Robin Williams said. 

Cheerleading at Elgin High School is non-competitive, and the squad doesn't do tumbling or pyramids. 

Despite these factors, Alison's parents were told their daughter has no shot at making the squad. 

"We were told that Alison could try out, [but] even with accommodations she would not meet the minimum criteria to be a cheerleader," said Brian. 

Robin said she was told Alison would be denied a place on the squad even if there are open spots remaining after tryouts


It seems like we are hearing more and more stories about students with disabilities being denied the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities.  What do you think of this story?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2013
Tue, 06-25-2013 - 2:25pm
I agree with the school. If she could not do the physical stuff that the cheerleaders do, then she should not be on the cheerleading team.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Fri, 06-07-2013 - 10:26am

Well, the article doesn't state what the standard criteria might be, but I agree with the school. If the girl doesn't meet the criteria, she shouldn't make the squad.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Tue, 05-28-2013 - 3:55pm

I think it would be good if the school would say specifically which criteria she doesn't meet. That way, it would be more honest (and more emotionally neutral) than simply telling her she's excluded because of Down syndrome. Being a cheerleader requires, at the very minimum, the ability to keep rhythm, flexibility, coordination, and probably some skill at dancing. I know I would not have met these requirements, and I don't have Down syndrome or any other disability.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2012
Thu, 05-23-2013 - 1:29pm

Sorry, but I agree with the school.  There are standards, if you can't meet them then you can't participate.  I sympathize with the little girl, but all the other girls on the squad shouldn't have to be pulled down in order to lift her up.  Life isn't fair.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Wed, 05-22-2013 - 12:15pm

I am assuming the do the same competitive try out my ODD went through since they are just down the road from us in Texas also and its pretty across the board here from what i have heard.  She should try out, and if there are spots left on the squad even if she doesn't make the minimum criteria, I don't see why she should not be allowed on the team, even if as a positive reflection on the squad.  We had a girl on our squad that tried out and made it sophomore year, but she had some ongoing medical issues, I am not sure what they were, but they interfered with cheerleading as the year went on.  She opted herself not to try out as a junior for varsity knowing how competitive it was, but since she had a history on teh squad, they elected to have her on as a manager of the team to help the coach out and the entire team always treated her as a member of the squad.  There are usually solutions or good alternatives for situations like this, and this is smaller town/school, so its not as if there are 50 girls trying out for 16 spots on the squad.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 05-22-2013 - 10:49am

That's pretty ridiculous if they don't do tumbling--I wonder what they count as "minimum criteria?"  I was a cheerleader in high school & there were competititve tryouts.  I would think everyone should be allowed to try out but they would have to prove they could do the stunts--even in those days, which were much less athletic than cheerleaders are today, we still had to be able to do cartwheels, splits, jumps & pyramids. 

I guess a bigger debate would be should a child with a physical or mental handicap receive special help or treatment if their disability would prevent them from being competitive for an athletic sport where they could not compete with able bodied students?  But don't you see those news clips where, say, a boy with Down syndrome was allowed to be on the basketball team or maybe the manager but was really a bench sitter and then in some game, they let him in & all the kids cheer for him?  Now that's heartwarming.  this school seems clueless--I couldn't watch the TV clip, but I wonder what their rationale was.