UPDATE: School board asks for cheerleading rules to be reviewed

Pelicans relish opportunity to be in the hunt
April 15, 2015
Water line work delayed
April 15, 2015
Pelicans relish opportunity to be in the hunt
April 15, 2015
Water line work delayed
April 15, 2015

Terrebonne Parish School Board members have asked the district’s superintendent to review the rules for cheerleader squad selection, following a complaint from the mother of an incoming South Terrebonne High School freshman that the rules discriminate on the basis of gender.

(To read John DeSantis’ original piece on this issue, click here)

The mother, Loretta Verrett of Chauvin, said Wednesday morning that she has filed a complaint through the US Department of Education’s Web site, which could result in a formal investigation by federal authorities.

The rules for cheerleading used by the district limit the number of girls on the squad to 16 and the number of boys to ten. The boys who applied for this year’s squad fell below the minimum number and so they were allowed on the team without performing formal try-outs.

Verrett’s complaints arose after her 14-year-old daughter, Kassidy, did not make the squad.

But the bigger issue, she said, is that boys who are on the team were allowed to “walk on” to the team with the requirement for a forma tryout waived.

The issue is important, she said, because cheerleading is an activity that can earn participants academic credit required for graduation.

School officials acknowledge that what appeared to be satisfactory and in at least one case superlative performances by the boys in pre-tryout clinics are what guaranteed their spots on the team.

But a review of the rules makes clear that there is no provision for suspending the tryouts, which include grading on performance, grades and conduct, simply because the number of boys who applied is below the maximum allowed.”

You have boys that walked on without even trying out,” Verrett told board members. “Everybody told me there was nothing they could do. I would say it like this. It needs to be fair especially if they are giving academic credits. I don’t care if my daughter doesn’t get one of the spots that are still there. It’s somebody else’s child”

Although girls – including Verrett’s daughter – were cut from consideration because of lower formal scores, the boys never scored at all, since they were accepted without the tryout from which points are scored by judges.

One, possibly two, spots for girls are still open on the squad.

“It sounds petty because it’s cheerleading,” Verrett said during her statement, acknowledging later that she had butterflies in her stomach and was stressed while speaking because addressing a body like the school board is something she has never done before.

Title IX of the federal education law bars discrimination in education matters including extra-curricular programs. Experts on such claims contacted by The Times are divided over how or whether Title IX might be applied in this matter.

The law’s provisions say that – except under certain circumstances – there must be equal treatment of boys and girls.

Superintendent Philip Martin, who initially told Verrett after the squad selections that there was nothing he could do, said after the meeting that he is now aware of more details.

At the request of School Board Chairman Roosevelt Thomas, Martin is looking further into the matter.

“The superintendent will be looking into it again,” Thomas told Verrett as she stepped away from the podium. “We will look into it and fix what is fixable of whatever problem.”

Loretta Verrett addresses the Terrebonne Parish School Board Tuesday night alleging gender inequality in cheerleading selections.