Girl with no arms and legs says cheerleading try-out is unfair after she fails to make school squad
By John Stevens
July 13, 2011
A Nebraska girl born with no arms and legs has blamed unfair scoring after she failed to make her school's cheerleading squad three years in a row.
Julia Sullivan, 16, has complained to the school board after she said she was given 'no accommodation for her disability' during try-outs.
The wheelchair user did not make the team after she received a low score in the jumps/kicks category of the trials.
Miss Sullivan got her highest marks in the communication skills and enthusiasm/spirit categories.
The Aurora High School student, who said that she likes to dance, said: "I just think it would be fun."
Miss Sullivan told the Omaha World-Herald that she had practiced for the try-outs with her older sister, who is a former cheerleader.
She had worked out ways that she could cheer from her wheelchair, including spinning around.
Miss Sullivan and her parents, Mike and Carolyn Sullivan, asked the school board to correct what they see as 'scoring errors' in her try-out.
They complained that the school had broken the Americans with Disabilities Act and other discrimination laws.
On Monday, the board declined to take up the matter after reviewing the district's policies with its lawyers and seeking a second legal opinion.
Aurora superintendent Damon McDonald said: "In both cases, they came back and said the Aurora Public Schools policies and guidelines are appropriate and legitimate for all students."
He told the World-Herald that he does not believe that they violated the disabilities act and that making accommodations "would fundamentally alter the cheerleading program."
Mike Sullivan said he was frustrated by the outcome.
"For us, it's the basic principle," he told the World-Herald. "Any handicapped child in Nebraska could be kept out of activities."
Miss Sullivan, who has no legs and arms that stop short of her elbows, has already overcome her disability to become a member of the school's marching band.
She hangs a cymbal from her wheelchair, which she operates with one arm and hits the cymbal with a stick attached to the other.
She took dance lessons for ten years, sitting on the floor with shoes placed on her arms so that she could tap rhythms on the floor.
At first glance, I thought this was absurd or a joke, but on further consideration where would the harm be for the school board to allow the girl to wear a cheering outfit and participate as she's able -- spinning in her chair and cheering along with the other girls?
Sadly, I bet it just either a) creeps someone out or b) is an example of a stubborn school board member refusing to change the status quo or reinvent what's considered normal.
Again, you almost can't help but laugh or at least... blink to hear or read someone -- anyone -- dispute a ruling or judgment that a girl with no legs would get low marks or, hey, a zero score for, yeah, kicking and jumping, but accommodations could be made.
The girl and her cheerleader sister already thought of some simple changes to what is typically defined as cheering.
And you can bet that if this child had been a cheerleader who lost her arms and legs in an accident, that the school board members would be bending over backwards to get her in a cheering jersey and wheel her out on the playing field to the applause of her classmates and family members.
What are your thoughts?
Idiotic or possible?
Give the girl a chance to participate in her own way or maintain what's traditionally recognized as cheerleading?
Pics ASAP. I'm posting this from my phone.