Reprinted with permission from The Stanly News & Press
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has put the North Stanly High School cheerleaders on probation for the rest of the football season for their part in holding up a Trump banner during the Aug. 30 game against Piedmont.
The Aug. 30 incident happened before the game began, when some of the North cheerleaders and a couple other individuals gathered for a photo. A cheerleader and a young male held up a banner that read “Trump 2020 ‘Make America Great Again.'” The photo circulated on Facebook after a North teacher posted it.
After talking with the central office, and since the incident appeared on social media and caused people to feel uncomfortable, the NCHSAA took a greater look at it.
“One of the rules we have is that every contest should be conducted in a wholesome, athletic environment,” North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Que Tucker said. “We take that to mean that it’s in an environment where good sportsmanship is shown, where people feel safe … that respect for all people participating is being shown.”
Due to the fact the incident caused concern for many and helped create a negative athletic environment, according to Tucker, the NCHSAA decided to reprimand the cheerleaders by putting them on probation.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff James said Dean Shatley, of Shatley and Campbell law firm, reviewed the NCHSAA’s decision and felt it was appropriate.
James said the school system did not discipline any of the students because there were no violations of the student code of conduct. He said school officials will likely update the code to include rules against political campaigning on school campuses during sporting events.
Following multiple media reports about the North Stanly incident and a letter sent to the NCHSAA from Congressman Richard Hudson regarding the matter, Que Tucker, NCHSAA Commissioner, released the following clarification:
While the NCHSAA does not have a specific policy prohibiting the display of political advertisements at athletic events, the behavior was contrary to the NCHSAA’s “Philosophy of Cheerleading” in the NCHSAA Handbook. This philosophy emphasizes the cheerleader’s important role in representing the school to its fans and others in attendance in a positive manner, while eliciting appropriate support for their team in accordance with the spirit and letter of NCHSAA and local school policies and expectations.
It is our understanding that Stanly County Schools has a policy against political advertisements on campus or at school events. It is also our understanding that Stanly County Schools does not make political endorsements. As the district officials related in their release yesterday, ‘Because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the display of the sign could be perceived as the school or school system endorsing a political campaign."
NCHSAA probation, in and of itself, is not a punishment. It serves as a notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior. Should infractions occur during a probation period at a member school or within a team at a member school, additional sanctions such as fines or suspensions could be implemented. In the aforementioned instance, opportunities for participation were neither eliminated nor limited.
The decision to place the cheerleaders on probation was made to highlight the NCHSAA’s philosophy of cheerleading as well as Stanly County Schools’ local district policy on political endorsements by individuals representing the school. The NCHSAA has no comment on the letter released by Representative Hudson.”
Editor's Note: Late Friday afternoon, the Stanly County Schools announced that because of new safety concerns in the wake of the school’s cheerleaders being placed on probation, Friday’s Sept. 20 home football game with China Grove Carson was postponed to Saturday morning, Sept. 21.
Pictured: Que Tucker