Cheer, cheer for old Central High | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cheer, cheer for old Central High

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 10:39 AM

A little more on the Central High cheerleader controversy, in which former Sen. Bill Walker’s daughter sued over her failure to make the squad last year. "Wonder Doe," who's on the team this year and the source of continuing friction according to multiple accounts before the School Board last night, contended that she wasn’t afforded accommodations required on account of a disability, attention-deficit disorder. A federal judge dismissed the case because the Walkers failed to exhaust remedies provided under state law for students making such claims.
A new wrinkle has arisen. The plaintiffs contend they were denied their rights to a hearing before the school board on the issue. The law is somewhat hazy on whether this was required. The school district does have a policy that commits the board not to discriminate on account of handicapping condition, among others. Under this policy, the Walkers’ attorney John Walker argues, their daughter was entitled to a board hearing.
That argument, it seems to me, effectively would require a board hearing for anybody in any extracurricular activity who thinks race, ethnicity, sex, handicapping condition or religion had an impact on team selection. In my day, I guess I could have argued that my slow-foot syndrome should have been considered by the Lake Charles School Board before a final decision was reached on my exclusion from the basketball team traveling squad one year.
But silliness aside, this goes back to a Roy Brooks decision. The e-mail record I’ve obtained includes a pronouncement by the former superintendent with which I heartily agree, but also the fact that he ignored a call for a hearing from a Board member.
Read it on the jump.

School Board members were notified about a parent contesting cheerleader try-out results on May 11, 2006.
Board member Baker Kurrus responded:

I appreciate the fact that a parent is upset, but I will wait to review all of this until it comes to the board, if it comes to the board.  Is there some particular reason to examine this specifically, or perhaps should the topic be put on the agenda as a matter of policy?  Somebody let me know if this is appropriate for board review at this time.

Then-Board member Tony Rose commented:

I have no intention of micromanaging the district. I'm just venturing my opinion here: we've done too much for these people already. I think Ms. Rousseau and the downtown administrators have more important things to do than deal with the angry parents of a spoiled child.

Then-Supt. Brooks responded in an e-mail to all board members:

There is no law, policy, or practice of which I am aware that would cause this issue to come to the board.  If we begin to second guess and become involved in decisions that principals are making at this level, we could easily set a precedent where a disproportionate amount of our time is spent dealing with the parents of children who can’t effectively deal with a fair and objective process that determines the outcomes of competitions. 
If this issue is allowed to come to the board for a hearing, and I have no intention of doing so, it would open the door for the board to be flooded with hearing requests from every athlete who doesn’t get to play on the team, every child who doesn’t get the lead role in the school play, every runner-up in every contest across the district.  It would go on and on and on . . . 

I have told Nancy that I support the school’s decision and that I believe it was just and fair.   I am puzzled about why are we even discussing an issue of cheerleading try-outs when we have a district with such urgent and pressing educational needs - - such as those outlined last night.  I agree with Mr. Rose’s point that the result of a cheerleading trial is not a matter of district policy and properly does not belong before you. 

Board member Micheal Daugherty then commented:

Roy, in all fairness the decision to bring this to the board is not an option for the superintendent. It is the final step in any appeal at the district level. It must be the board who decides whether or not this issue is heard. FYI, an appeal can be made under board policy JBA [the non-discrimination policy I mentioned earlier].

There, the record ends. No board hearing was held. A lawsuit was filed. The controversy simmers on


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