Austin, Decatur adopt joint rules for cheerleaders
By Bayne Hughes
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When an Austin High student tries out for cheerleader Thursday, she will face the same tryout rules that Decatur High students competed under last week.
In an effort to give more consistency between Decatur's two high schools, cheerleader sponsors and Decatur High Assistant Principal Mary Hillis met and presented the proposal to Superintendent Sam Houston, who signed off on the new cheerleader rules.
The packet details rules for tryouts, cheerleading costs and conduct, academic and participation rules students must follow once they become a cheerleader.
Austin Cheerleader Sponsor Anna Nelson said the sponsors also hope to avoid a controversy similar to the one she had last year in which 12 white, all from Cedar Ridge Middle School, and no black or Brookhaven Middle students made the freshman squad. Principal Don Snow later expanded the squad by five students, adding black and Brookhaven representation to the squad.
Snow said the new rules do not set a specific squad size or set a racial quota requiring a specific percentage of minority representation. He said the rules are intended to be as objective as possible and pick the best cheerleaders among the candidates.
Nelson said they will continue dividing where tryout points give sponsors a natural break.
"If the 13th girl is .10 of a point behind the 12th girl, the 13th girl deserves to be on the team just as much as the 12th girl," Nelson said.
Nelson said most of the changes are minor. Each tryout will have three or four "out-
side professional cheerleading judges."
The judges score varsity students on entrance (20 points); a toe-touch jump (10 points); a double-toe touch, pike or hurdler jump (10 points); standing tumbling (20 points); individual cheer (10 points); group cheer (10 points); and group dance (20 points).
Among the complaints in the controversy last year were the students were judged on tumbling even though it wasn't required until varsity, and more affluent students could afford private tumbling lessons that the less affluent students could not.
Nelson said the sponsors hope to solve both complaints by sticking with the tumbling requirement for varsity, but not requiring tumbling for junior varsity and freshman squads. The city's Community Education program is offering cheerleading with tumbling and gymnastics at a low cost for additional training.
Decatur High offers a tumbling class as an alternative to physical education. Snow said he hopes to offer a similar class next year at Austin, but he is still trying to work out the schedule and staff logistics.
Another complaint last year was that some students turned in all seven required teacher recommendation forms and some didn't. The new rules take this requirement off the students and put it on the cheerleader sponsors to get their fellow teachers to turn in these forms, often a difficult chore as teachers juggle their loads of paperwork.
Under the new rule, judges will drop the lowest of the seven teacher recommendation scores. If one teacher does not respond, the student will have to depend on the six who did respond.
Since being a cheerleader requires students take an elective class, the new rules detail how the sponsors grade them. Among these rules is a requirement for at least 25 chants a quarter during a football or basketball game. Attendance, timeliness, participation, behavior and dress code are part of the grade.
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