A Nebraska high school is drawing the ire of the ACLU after its cheer team rejected, for a third time, a young girl with no arms and no legs. The school says she can’t perform the basic cheer functions. The ACLU says she should be given a pass.
“I just think it would be fun,” 16-year-old Julia Sullivan, who gets around in a wheelchair, told the Omaha World-Herald.
But she’ll have to find another way to pass the time after trying out and not making the team. That, her parents and lawyer say, is unfair.
“We would agree that there are some activities such as football where the ability to run and tackle are fundamental to the sport,” Kevin Schneider, the family’s attorney, told the World-Herald. “Making reasonable accommodations and modifications for cheerleading are not fundamental in that same way.”
The parents complained to the school board about Julia’s situation, asking it to step in after citing the Americans With Disabilities Act. They believe Julia should have been given special accommodations, and that her disability should have been taken into consideration during the scoring.
After deliberating behind closed doors, the board decided not to do anything.
The World-Herald explains the board’s decision:
Aurora Superintendent Damon McDonald said school administrators and the school board reviewed the district’s policies and criteria for the cheerleading program with its legal counsel. They also sought a second legal opinion.
“In both cases, they came back and said the Aurora Public Schools policies and guidelines are appropriate and legitimate for all students,” said McDonald, who took the job July 1.
The school district, he said, does not believe that there was a violation of the disabilities act and that making accommodations “would fundamentally alter the cheerleading program in the Aurora Public Schools.”
Cheerleading is not sanctioned by the state’s high school athletic organization, the World-Herald reports, so it has not gotten involved in the case.
However, the ACLU has. The group has started spreading the word about Julia’s case, even featuring it on one of its podcasts.
As for the family, Schneider said they have not decided the next step.
“For us, it’s the basic principle,” Mike Sullivan, Julia’s father, told the Herald. “Any handicapped child in Nebraska could be kept out of activities.”
And as for Julia, she has her own theory about why she didn’t make the team: “They just have it in their mind that I can’t do it.”
What do you think?