Mt. Pleasant school board members spoke in favor of hanging competitive cheer’s team state championship and state runner-up banners in the school gymnasium during a regular meeting Monday, Nov. 12, an issue that was taken to the Site Committee earlier this month and led to a heated debate between parents of cheerleaders and committee members.
Parents and cheerleaders approached the school board in October requesting recognition of their successes in the gym despite the fact that competitive cheer is not a sanctioned sport by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls Athletic Union.
The board voted in January to hang only champion and state runners-up banners for sanctioned sports. Before then, banners were not displayed in the high school gym.
During Monday’s school board meeting, Anne Davidson spoke on behalf of the cheerleaders and parents, again asking that their team state championship and state runner-up banners be displayed.
“Our squad got third place this year a week ago,” Davidson said. “We are extremely pleased with our outcome, but it doesn’t need to be in the gymnasium because that’s not the standard (we’re asking for).
Davidson presented four solutions to the banner question.
The first is that the board change the current requirement of sanctioned sports to athletic sports. Davidson said that cheer meets the definition of an athletic sport by following concussion protocol, having a licensed coach in place and falls under the supervision of the athletic director.
Davidson also said that ISHAA supports cheer, but they are not sanctioned because then Iowa teams would not be able to compete at the national level. The MPCHS cheer team does not compete nationally.
The second option Davidson presented was including team banners of teams only eligible to compete for a state championship banner. Division ratings do not qualify as a state championship because there is not a clear winner, Davidson said. This would exclude teams like marching band and show choir, which receive division ratings.
Davidson’s third option was to have one side of the gym be dedicated ISHAA sanctioned sports awards and the other side be all other activities.
Finally, Davidson said if the school board does not want to “clutter the gym,” they could have one banner listing all state championship years and one banner listing all runner-up years for a total of two banners.
The board has said in previous meetings that they are concerned that other teams not sanctioned also will want to be displayed in the gym and clutter the walls such as marching band, show choir, auto and culinary arts.
Monday night, school board member Willy Amos made a motion that the cheerleaders’ banners be included in the gym or that the board choose one of Davidson’s options.
“I think we should make a motion to hang the girls cheerleading banners,” Amos said. “To me, the gym is mostly for athletics, and cheerleading is a sport. It’s not sanctioned, but it is very much a sport. It’s not asking for much. Hang the banners up just like the rest of them.”
Board member Chuck Andrew said he can’t believe the amount of time the board has wasted discussing whether or not to hang the banners. “Give them some recognition,” Andrew said.
Board member Martha Wiley said while she likes the idea of including competitive cheer banners in the gym, she still would like to see something that recognizes all teams within the school — sports or otherwise.
“We’ve discussed something digital that can be added. I would like to see something that continually celebrates them,” Wiley said.
“I think we need to do a better job celebrating our students better,” board member Jennifer Crull added.
MPCHS athletic director Scot Lamm said the school still has a lot of awards to display and they need to figure out a way to address it.
“We need to find that answer,” Lamm said. “What it is I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever come up with something everyone wants or likes, but we need to keep moving on it and keep moving toward a solution.”
Because the cheerleaders’ banners were listed as a discussion item, the board was unable to vote Monday. The board will vote in December.
The next Mt. Pleasant school board meeting is Monday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m. in the high school media center.