North Stanly High School Football Game Cancelled Due To Safety Concerns Surrounding Controversial Photo

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Stanly County Schools says the North Stanly High School football game scheduled for Friday night has been cancelled due to safety concerns.

Officials say the decision was made after receiving additional information around 3pm that could “compromise safety measures” that are currently in place for sporting events.

Dozens rallied across the street from the high school Friday night instead.

Early Friday afternoon, the district had announced there would be an increased police presence as well as additional staff at the game. The precautions were being taken due to a recent political controversy sparked by a photo of the North Stanly cheerleading squad holding a “Trump 2020” banner.

The school did not punish them, but the State Athletic Association put the squad on probation for the rest of football season. The district says there is a policy against distribution of campaign material at a school events, and the cheerleaders being representatives of the school in uniform, may give the impression the school or district is endorsing a political campaign.

“Our liberties are being taken from us day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour they’re gaining ground. I’m tired of it,” says Jeremy Onitreb.

“Support the first amendment, freedom of speech,” says Abigail Blue.

WCCB Charlotte’s Alexandra Elich went live on Facebook at the rally where a number of people think the district did the right thing.

One of the district supporters commented, “They can do what they like when they aren’t representing the school.”

Another said, “They broke a rule y’all trying to make it into some political rights thing. The bottom line is they knew the rules they broke them they are being punished.”

Watch the full video here:

HAPPENING NOW: A rally to support North Stanly High School cheerleaders after they were put on probation for holding a political sign. Supporters were going to go to a football game tonight, but that football game was canceled citing safety concerns. Alexandra Elich WCCB is live there now:

Posted by WCCB, Charlotte's CW on Friday, September 20, 2019

 

Stanly County Schools says Rowan-Salisbury Schools support the decision to cancel tonight’s game, and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. The district says safety for the students, athletes, staff, and community is their number one concern.

Original Story (September 17, 2019):

NEW LONDON, N.C. (AP) – A high school cheerleading squad in North Carolina is on probation after some cheerleaders posed with a banner supporting President Donald Trump before a football game.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Stanly County Schools Superintendent Jeff James told The Associated Press in an email Monday that the warning was levied by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

It happened before the Aug. 30 game at North Stanly High School, northeast of Charlotte. News outlets reported that the banner read: “Trump 2020: Make America Great Again.”

The superintendent said the probation simply means “don’t do it again.” He says all North Carolina schools have a policy against displaying political signs.

The district said the banner’s display wasn’t planned or endorsed by the school or staff.

WCCB reached out to the Stanly County School District and they responded with the following statement:

Stanly County Schools is aware of the public interest regarding North Stanly High School student athletes during a football game on August 30, 2019.

It is important to clarify the following points as it relates to this issue:

  • During the football game that evening, the cheerleaders, while in uniform, held up a political campaign sign.
  • Neither Stanly County Schools nor North Stanly High School disciplined the cheerleaders for this action.
  • The focus of an athletic event should be on our students – not politics – which is why the school board has a policy that prohibits the distribution of political campaign material at school events or school publications. This policy is in place to ensure the school system remains neutral on political issues and the focus remains on our students.
  • This policy does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities. 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. For this reason, the only action Stanly County Schools has taken is to ask the cheerleaders not to display the sign again.
  • Upon becoming aware of this matter, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association placed the cheerleading squad on probation for the remainder of the football season. Probation is not a punishment, but the school is put on notice that further actions or behaviors that go against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior by the same team or school will be subject to punishment, in accordance with Handbook Rule 3.2.
  • The NCHSAA did not suspend the cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders were present at the football game on September 13 and will be present at all remaining games during the season.
  • The NCHSAA is the governing body for inter-scholastic athletics in North Carolina. As a member of the NCHSAA, Stanly County Schools is required to comply with all NCHSAA rules and regulations.

Again, the focus of Friday night football games should be on our students – the players, cheerleaders, band members – the focus should not be on politics. For this reason, we are hopeful the situation will resolve, and our student athletes can have a successful fall season and unite the Comet school spirit for the remainder of the year.

U.S. Representative Richard Hudson, whose district includes Stanly County, sent the North Carolina High School Athletic Association a letter questioning the probation of North Stanly High School cheerleaders after they were pictured with other students holding a political sign at a recent football game.

His letter can be read below:

Dear Commissioner Tucker,

It has recently come to my attention that cheerleaders at North Stanly High School were put on probation for the remainder of their season because they were pictured with other students holding political sign at a football game.

As the representative of Stanly County, I am appalled these students are being punished for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

As leaders, we should be encouraging America’s youth to participate in our democracy and political process – not punishing and silencing them. These North Stanly students respectfully displayed a sign and took a picture. They did not cause a scene, participate in a protest or break any school code of conduct.

In fact, the Stanly News and Press reported, “the school system did not discipline any of the students because there were no violations of the student code of conduct.” Why were they put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and what specific NCHSAA rule(s) did they violate?

At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment. I ask this not only as the federal representative of Stanly County, but also as a proud graduate of North Carolina public schools and a former NCHSAA athlete.

Sincerely,

Richard Hudson

Member of Congress (NC-08)