To cheer or not to cheer

Lincoln High School has been struggling recently and students now have even less to cheer about, given the loss of their cheerleading squad.

Lincoln High School has been struggling recently and students now have even less to cheer about, given the loss of their cheerleading squad.

At high school, college and the professional level, cheerleaders and fans root for their teams in the hopes of victory. Cheerleading is an important part of sports, and is in fact a sport itself.

Cheerleaders can make for the most memorable moments for a sporting event. What happens when there are no cheerleaders to push the fans and the players to victory? Lincoln students and faculty are finding out the answer to that tough question.

According to the Oregon School Activities Association, about 2,500 girls participate in cheerleading among Oregon high schools, making it the fifth-most popular sport for girls in Oregon.

Clearly, cheerleading is an important part of the high school experience. Whether they participate or not, people always remember the cheerleaders.

Some people argue otherwise, saying all they do is wave pom-poms and yell. Those critics should try putting in the hours and the stunts that these young men and women pull off. It is by no means easy and should not be taken for granted, because these students are athletes and an important part of their schools.

Essentially, they push other athletes to win, push students to cheer along, and bring together the student body for the gathered support of their school.

Nov. 30 was a sad day when the Lincoln men’s basketball season began with no cheerleaders in sight. And when their football team reached the state playoffs, they were missing then too.

What happened to the cheerleading squad at Lincoln? According to an article in Willamette Week last month, the controversy all appeared to start when Alonza, an African-American transfer student from North Portland, was granted a spot on the varsity squad.

She was a talented cheerleader and very strong, and she used to be a boy. Alonza was Alonzo at her old high school. She identified as a girl and so she wore the girls’ uniform, which appeared to be fine with everyone.

Everything seemed all well and good, but by the end of August Alonza had accrued several violations, from constantly being late to practices to not showing up to a fundraiser, and also for rolling her eyes at teammates and coaches. On her MySpace profile, she posted photos depicting her drinking. Lincoln has strict rules against alcohol and drug use in their athletic code of conduct, which Alonza signed in addition to a policy specific to cheerleading.

Willamette Week reported further that the cheerleading squad has a three-strike policy, and when Alonza was 95 minutes late to practice the coaches decided that she had used her final strike, and asked her to leave the squad.

Alonza eventually was given a second chance. With a new code of conduct contract signed, she joined the junior varsity cheerleading team, but the drama continued. The coaches contacted Alonza’s mother stating that she could not cheer in the Lincoln program anymore because she had violated her contract. Alonza’s mother called the coaches and some of the cheerleaders racists.

Principal Peyton Chapman then entered the situation and told the coaches they had to reinstate Alonza yet again. What followed was a messy state of affairs. The coaches left feeling that their authority meant nothing. The bond between coach and cheerleader must have been strong, because the cheerleaders soon followed.

Chapman appears to have been overly sensitive to this student because she is African-American and transgendered. The principal was not worried about the dignity of the program, but of what people might say if a sexual and racial minority was kicked out.

In reality, this is an open-and-shut case. Race and gender were clearly not issues, because Lincoln had a diverse cheerleading squad to begin with and the coaches accommodated Alonza’s needs, up to and including her woman’s uniform.

This is simply a student who has obvious discipline problems, because she violated her contract on several occasions. She’s had more than enough chances. It is not fair or just of Lincoln High School to remove an entire cheerleading squad due to a single member in clear violation of her contract.