EAST HANOVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey high school is trying out a new cheerleading policy that is already stirring up a real hornet’s nest after a mother complained when her daughter didn’t make the cut.
The school decided the squads need to be more inclusive, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.
Sophomore Stephanie Krueger said she’s been practicing four days a week for the last decade, dreaming of making it to Hanover Park High School’s top tier cheering team, known as the “Black Squad.”
Last month, the school was using a scoring system that featured coaches judging on things like jumps and choreography. Krueger and a number of girls made the team, but students said the parent of a classmate who placed on a lower-level cheer squad complained to the school.
In a letter to students and parents, the superintendent wrote the “process was invalid,” and that the historically elite team would be made up of every cheerleader in the 11th and 12th grades, instead of by skill level.
“All the time I’ve spent in my cheer gym practicing, constantly flipping, practicing my jumps, all was just like gone,” Krueger said. “I can’t believe, like, my hard work just dropped. It’s like telling a football player — your star varsity football player — they can’t play anymore because we want to make it all inclusive.”
“My biggest gripe is if you want to make a change, do it for next season. But don’t do it for this season. You already had the tryout,” parent Lisa Krueger added.
CBS2’s Rozner did reach out to the parent who complained as well as the district’s superintendent. Both declined her request for an on-camera interview.
In an email, the superintendent told CBS2 the new policy is “in the best interest of our students and was made to be as inclusive as possible.”
That didn’t mean people agree with it.
“I think it’s a bad precedent because this really actually isn’t the way the world is,” cheerleading parent Sharon Iossa said. “Everybody doesn’t get a trophy. You can’t be a Giants player just because you play football.”
“What about life? What about getting a job? You know? You’re going to have your mom come with you too to hold your hand?” Whippany resident Sandy Porciello said.
Former school cheerleaders were shocked upon hearing of the policy change.
“I was head cheerleader and my sister didn’t make it. My mom said, ‘You better get to work,'” said Amy Rega, who graduated from Hanover Park High School in 2003.
Private cheer coach Lisa Kretschman said the change could make it less likely for colleges to recruit cheerleaders from the school.
“These kids are muscular. They’re strong. They’re fast,” Kretschman said. “It’s not good for the image of cheerleading in general because you’re talking about a sport that already has to fight to be recognized.”
For a school whose mascot is the hornet, the issue tumbling into quite the hornet’s nest.
The state organization which governs the rules of high school sports said it does not recognize cheerleading as a sport, so the policy is ultimately up to the local school board.