What I Did When My Son's School Wouldn't Let Him Be A Cheerleader

23/06/2017 12:09
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As a parent, what expectations did you have for your child that you had to change? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Cherie Wilkerson, mum of two:

With my son I was having a boy and expected trucks and cars and toy soldiers and hunting and fishing. Instead, I got a boy who enjoyed dolls music and dancing and playing dress up. I never thought of myself as a parent who would force their child into a gender-normal pigeonhole. So when he wanted a baby doll for Christmas and was a well behaved child, he sure got one. I was appalled that I was a sexist mom, and decided to change that immediately!

And it honestly didn't occur to me that he might not want a truck. But i rolled with it after being ashamed and embarrassed that I automatically assumed he'd want a truck. When he turned 6 he received an invitation to basketball tryouts. He was in tears and I asked if he wanted to play the sport with his friends. He certainly did not want to play basketball. He was crying because when his female friends received tryouts papers, they were able to try out for the cheer squad. He wasn't invited.

He decided that he would ask for a cheer tryouts paper Instead, and was refused by his gym coach, who asked if he wanted to be a boy or a girl today. My son was upset and discouraged and in tears when I came to get him. When I learned what happened I was appalled. I also didn't expect that my son would be a victim of sexist bigotry at six years old. This was only 4 years ago!

The school had an anti-discrimination policy and anti-bully policies and no tolerance for either. I called the school and asked why my son couldn't cheer. He was a boy and it was an all-girls team. I countered about the young lady who took the junior varsity football team almost to state the year before as a kicker. Apparently she was old enough to understand that this was not typically a ladies' sport. I countered again about how cheer teams and gymnasts and even dancers have coed teams at all ages. Well now they don't have a boys cheer uniform. Finally I offered to purchase one and was told that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the squad who were wearing used uniforms.

No wonder the kid was frustrated. So was I. I circulated a petition amongst the other cheer moms asking if they would be uncomfortable with my son cheering with their girls. I was everything from encouraged to confronted about whether i was concerned about my son being bullied. (Small town and equally narrow-minded people.) By the time I finally got my stuff in order and had what I thought would be a good case for the principal of the school, he said, "Well ma'am, your son will have his permission slip."

That very day my son had his slip. I signed it and included his wellness doctor report and money and measurements for his uniform to be ordered. (A tip on the measurements was received from a cheer mom who has a daughter much more petite than a normal athletic size).

My son was in tears he next day because the cutoff date for athletic entries and tryouts was the day before and the school gave him his slip at the end of that day! I went from angry to absolutely feral. I was furious and got on my phone immediately. I asked the principal if he would like a full-on lawsuit or if I should just go to the school board and take his job in particular. Clearly I didn't expect the school to set my son up for defeat either. He was discriminated against and degraded and finally they thought paper would hush me up when he just wanted to try out.

I didn't expect my son to feel and look so defeated. For days he was very upset. Finally the school agreed to make the cheer squad coed. It took me almost three weeks to change that policy. And I'm sure a lot of people weren't happy with me, but I never expected my son to hug me and tell me, "Mum, it's okay. You did your best and that's all that matters." (I said the same to him when things didn't work the way he hoped or when he didn't do as well as he thought he should.)

The best things that happened in my life were things I didn't expect, and my son and daughter are two of them.

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