Update: Armless, Legless Girl Allegedly Offered Compromise on Cheerleading but Parents Refused

Julia Sullivan

Earlier Thursday The Blaze asked if a Nebraska teen with no arms or legs should be offered a spot on her high school cheerleading squad. According to our report, Julia Sullivan’s parents claimed their daughter was barred from cheerleading by the school because of her disability.  It comes as no surprise the ACLU swiftly became involved in the case, citing discrimination.

Now originally we were led to believe school administrators refused 16-year Sullivan a place on the cheerleading squad outright, without so much as even entertaining the seemingly far-fetched possibility of giving her a shot. However, we are now learning that the girl’s parents may have actually been offered a compromise by the school district that would have allowed their daughter to become a cheerleader. A compromise the parents reportedly refused.

According to Blaze sources, the Aurora Register News reported on June 15* that the school district offered Sullivan a chance cheerleading for the football team and even a one-time try out for the volleyball team, to determine if there would be any safety issues for either Sullivan or the other participants. The Register News, however, says the girl’s parents refused the compromise, as they had their minds set on basketball cheerleading, which reportedly wasn’t on offer.

Aurora Superintendent Larry Ramaekers told the Register all the problems started when the Sullivan’s attorney became involved in the discussion.

And once lawyers were thrown into the mix, the school brought in its own.

Kelley Baker, the school district’s legal counsel, explained to the Register some of the factors that go in to the school’s decisions about allowing handicapped students to participate in team sports:

“You also have to take into account the fairness to other competitors if you are eliminating a criteria. Is that fair or unfair to other competitors?” he asked. Baker said the school also has to take health and safety into a consideration, noting the school has an obligation to protect its students and to try to structure their involvement in an activity, when it can be structured, to keep them safe. The school’s attorney said a third criteria that is important to consider is whether an accommodation would fundamentally alter the nature of the program.

“I looked at the criteria in the handbook. It’s thoughtfully written. It’s well written and incorporates the essential functions of the cheerleaders that have been in place for a number of years,” he said. “I have been told since the girls do not have a dance team, the element of dance has been an important part of the cheerleading squad. You do have kicking, jumping and dancing as criteria.”

Update: Armless, Legless Girl Allegedly Offered Compromise on Cheerleading but Parents Refused

(SCOTT KINGSLEY/WORLD-HERALD NEWS SERVICE)

But despite having what he believes are good reasons for possibly not allowing Sullivan on the squad, Baker reportedly said he’d be interested in a continued dialogue with the Sullivan’s attorney about finding “reasonable accommodations.”

So what say you? Are the Sullivan’s just screaming discrimination, or was the school district’s decision a fair one? If Julia’s parents only care about their daughter’s happiness, wouldn’t they have accepted the compromise? After all, wasn’t this all about their daughter’s desire to experience being a cheerleader? Does it matter whether it was for the basketball or the football team?

*You can view the June 15 article below:
Aurora Register News 6-15