An association is barring three Tremper High School coaches from attending a state competition for cheerleading that will take place this weekend as the school’s squad defends its state title, following fallout from an awards banquet that recognized girls for their body parts a year ago.
Tremper High School cheer coaches were the subject of a year-long investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, which notified the Kenosha Unified School District last week of concerns by parents and a coach of another sport.
The district also conducted its own investigation last year, of the banquet in which girls were given awards for the most improved or hardest-working players, but also awarded to girls based on their body parts. They were also given awards for: “Big Booty,” a distinction given the cheerleader with the largest butt; a “Big Boobie” for the largest breasts; and a “String Bean” award to the thinnest team member.
Superintendent Sue Savaglio Jarvis on Tuesday night said following the regular School Board meeting that the team is allowed to go, but their coaches are not.
“Tremper is allowed to go to the state tournament that is coming up,” said Savaglio-Jarvis. The students are traveling Thursday and that she collaborated with the Wisconsin Association for Cheer and Pom Coaches to see to it that the girls were able to attend.
Savaglio-Jarvis said that in a conference with the organization her biggest concern was for the students.
“The ban doesn’t impact students and we actually worked in collaboration to have another coach from another school district that has the proper certification to be on the floor with the girls,” she said. That coach met with the girls on Monday.
“The girls appreciate her very much. They’re very excited and were warm and welcoming,” she said.
The superintendent also met with some of the squad members and parents to share information about that decision.
“My heart was there for the girls. They’re able to compete,” she said. Accompanying the cheerleading squad will be two chaperones, a Tremper counselor and a school nurse.
She believed the state association was going to allow the cheer team to compete, but that the coaches be barred.
Two of the team’s coaches are resigning at the end of the school year.
“All three of the coaches are banned from attending the state competition,” she said.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, parent Kate Trudell said she was concerned with the response from the district that the awards were just a joke or meant to be funny.
She said classrooms, extra=curricular activities and sports banquets should not be venues to attempt humor that harasses at the expense of others.
She said what’s more important is that others did not find the awards funny.
“(Tremper Principal) Steve Knecht and Patti Uttech are not the arbiters of humor. Students and their parents left the banquet troubled by what they heard and that matters,” she said.
She said because the district’s failure to follow through with a recommendation that the coaches be forced to resign, a parent went to the ACLU for relief.
“Due to this publicity, the very coaches that should’ve been disciplined last year are prohibited from bringing the reigning state champion Tremper Cheer team to state competition this weekend,” she said. “I put that blame squarely on the district which chose to sweep this under the rug last spring.”
School board member Gary Kunich agreed with Trudell saying that the district was wrong in allowing it to happen.
“You’re right. We were wrong. I think this district failed and I’m angry about it,” said Kunich, whose daughter is a Tremper graduate. “If it happened to her, I’d be angry. I’d be one of those parents complaining. It should not have happened … there’s no excuse.”
School Board President Dan Wade said the awards were insensitive and completely beyond reproach,” he said.
He added, however, that the Tremper administration recognized the inappropriateness of the awards and “immediately went into action.”
“Proper steps were taken to insure that reparations were made, apologies were given and appropriate action taken with involved staff,” he said.
He said the district became involved in the situation and began its own investigation which has led to the reports a year later — and a perception that it’s still taking place.
“This simply isn’t the case,” he said.
He said what happened with the Tremper cheerleaders was “truly unfortunate” and that they should not have been subject to such “vile and insensitive” awards. He said that all have expressed regret for the mistake.
“We picked ourselves up. We learned our lesson. We moved forward,” he said.
Wade said that, however, cheerleaders and their families have been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls, not just from the media but from “fellow citizens”
“This is inappropriate. It is truly not who we are as a community,” he said. “To punish these athletes for something that took place a year ago is disgraceful and ultimately creates a whole new group of victims.”