Wednesday, Aug 10th

SHS Cheerleaders Plead with the Board of Education to Allow them to Compete

CheerleadersScarsdale High School Cheerleaders made an appearance at the Board of Education meeting on Monday June 21, 2021 to plead for clearance to compete. Though the team could practice this year, they were barred from competing, due to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who advised that masks could be a hazard during competitions. The warning says, “Face masks should not be worn for competitive cheerleading...because of the theoretical risk that the mask may get caught on objects and become a choking hazard or accidently impair vision.”

Though Scarsdale barred the girls from competing, 30 neighboring districts and teams from around the country did compete with the approval of their districts.

As these AAP guidelines have not changed to date, the team fears that they will miss next season as well, unless the Board changes their stance.

Speaking for the team were Lily Kaiei and Sabrina Finegold, who were flanked by their teammates.

Here are their statements:

Hi. My name is Lily Kiaei and I live on 11 Roosevelt Pl., and I am speaking on behalf of the Scarsdale Cheerleading Team.

Do you know what it feels like to not be heard? To watch your friends and classmates talk about how amazing it feels to compete and build hype around their upcoming game? To see Maroon and White tell the community to vote for the athlete of the week? To see other teams post on their social media about their wins? And to KNOW that you cannot share this joy. It is devastating. It is demoralizing. It is painful.

We have watched our fellow cheer athletes at schools throughout the county and state compete without us. We have practiced and hoped for approval from OUR Board of Education and our superintendent who are supposed to support us. We have worked with our parents to try to get the American Academy of Pediatrics to understand our sport and change the wording that was problematic. But, In the end YOU HAVE FAILED US.

As a group of around 30 girls, we are alone in this. We have no one else to talk to about it since we are the only ones going through it. No other team at the High School has had these specific struggles.

Cheering for all of us is so important in our lives, many of us have been doing it since we were toddlers, so now at the high school level, the time we have been preparing for our whole lives, it is being taken away from us. Possibly, this may stem from your lack of understanding of our sport. Time and time again, people only associate high school cheerleading with supporting our football teams at their games, but do you know that we do so much more than that? Perhaps you don’t understand that cheer is more than a one season sport, we have committed so much time and effort, tumbling on our own, many of us do private lessons, and improving individually for it to not matter. Because you most likely don't know, Year round, we prepare for our local and national competitions. This process starts in August by preparing our 2-minute and 30 second routine filled with tumbling, stunting, jumps, cheer, dance, and pyramid, and we work on this routine during our whole season to perfect it. The best feeling is getting off the mat at a competition knowing that your hard work from the whole year has paid off, but you are preventing us from having that feeling and enjoying our sport with our teammates.

During the pandemic, every student at the High School went through so much, and for many of us cheer is our only escape. It's been so discouraging and damaging that our only escape does not feel valued and it feels like it may, again, be taken away from us. For a school that claims that they prioritize our mental health, it seems that this does not apply to the cheerleaders.
What will you do to create a clear path forward for our team? What will you do to support our mental health? What will you do to support our collective goal - to represent Scarsdale High School during the 2021-2022 cheer season. Please hear what we are saying and support us as we fight to keep Scarsdale Cheerleading alive this season.

Sabrina Finegold then read her statement:

My name is Sabrina Finegold. I live on 22 Elm Road and I am here on behalf of the Scarsdale Cheerleading team. I not only want to reiterate what my teammate Lily said, but I also want to add on to some of her concerns and claims.

You are the adults. You are supposed to look out for us. For BOTH our physical and mental health. The District lawyers point to a theoretical risk. But what about the emotional risk and strain you have all put us under! We have been let down, again and again and again.
I understand that the AAP has stated that there is a theoretical risk of choking due to masks. I am a flyer myself. That means I am constantly spinning around, flipping, and being thrown in the air. Not once has my mask moved on my face, much less choked me or impaired my vision. Every single cheer team has these same guidelines and is potentially subject to this same risk. Every other cheerleading team in the state has had the same exact wording, which our lawyers claim to be the issue, yet their boards have found ways to support their cheerleading programs and allow them to begin their season. So, why are we being denied the opportunity to compete?

We do the exact same thing we do at practice that we do at a competition. Our coaches sit in front of the mat at every practice and if we were allowed to compete, they would be there at every competition, ready to jump in if anything were to happen. On top of that, at UCA competitions, staff are provided to stand on the mat with us and are trained to recognize danger and step in if needed.

If masks truly were a concern, we would not have been able to practice, as practicing presents the same risks that competing does. Therefore, It seems that this is an excuse rather than a genuine concern. We know that the lawyers have chosen to be conservative. But this is not a safety problem, our entire season has proven that, as well as the countless other cheerleading teams in the nation who have all had successful seasons.

We understand that the board is not currently voting on Cheerleading. If we were allowed to go back to school in September without masks, the vote would not be needed. The problem is that it is not a guarantee. Even if that was to happen, we would not hear about the decision for months, and as Lily previously stated, we need the summer to prepare for our next season.
And while we were told that our gender isn’t an issue, for teenage girls, it certainly feels that way. Knowing that we are being denied the privilege of competing at our own competitions, but being expected to cheer for the football boys was detrimental.

While we watched our season slowly fall apart, we wrote letters, sent emails, and most recently put out an article in the inquirer and spoke with one of the board members. We feel extremely un-heard. Please don't just listen to what we are saying. Act on it. Represent your students.

Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi had a suggestion for the Board. He said he would like to advocate with the NYS Department of Health, the Westchester County Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics to see if the regulations could be changed. He understood that cheerleaders and their families were looking for a response and said, “We can’t commit now, but we are planning for a normal year.”

The Board asked him to draft and send his own letters and also provide them to the Board of Education so that they could advocate as well. There was also speculation that the Governor’s order regarding competition might lapse, clearing the way for cheerleaders to enjoy a regular season.

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