MHS moms upset over cheerleader tryout issue

Published 11:14 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

A group of Memorial High School parents are at odds with Port Arthur Independent School District over cheerleader tryouts and want a decision reversed.

Tryouts were held in January and a number of girls made the squad that typically consists of 18 members. Letters of congratulations were given to the girls along with dates for uniform fitting and payment schedule information. Then a complaint of some sort was made to the district by an unknown person and a second tryout was scheduled, mom Tina Tyson said. Tyson’s daughter, who had been cheering for years, was one of seven girls who didn’t make the cut the second time around.

“My girl had made All American Cheerleader at camp,” Tyson said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Tyson and two other mothers whose daughters did not make the squad on the second tryout are upset the district decided to change the rules, so to speak. Parents were provided with a Cheerleader Constitution, which lays out the rules of the organization including a grievance policy for a hearing by a cheer committee that includes the cheer sponsor and at least one parent in addition to others.

Tyson said this never happened. She also said the second set of tryouts was hastily put together and some of the girls had scheduling issues such as work outside of school and some had plans to go and visit their other parent. One student, she said, was unable to attend the tryouts and was forced to turn in a video taped audition.

“Dr. (Mark) Porterie is who we hold accountable,” Tyson said of the district’s superintendent.

PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie issued a statement regarding the tryouts.

“We at the PAISD strive to make all student tryouts fair and impartial. I was faced with concerns regarding the original tryouts for cheerleader,” Porterie said in the statement. “Upon review, I decided that irregularities did exist in the process. To correct those irregularities, I directed my staff to conduct new tryouts with impartial judges not affiliated with the district.”

The mothers said they had met with school and district officials but an agreement was not reached and they felt their concerns were not addressed properly.

“You don’t have to change your rules, just go by your rules,” Tyson said about the Cheer Constitution. We want answers and are not satisfied. We feel like our girls have been done wrong; forced into a second tryout. We want them to honor their own Cheer Constitution.”

Mollyn Cole, fine arts supervisor for PAISD, said there were two parent meetings held before the second tryout on Saturday, Jan. 31, and campus and central level administration were on hand.

“Tryouts were adjudicated by outside judges from outside Port Arthur with decades of cheer experience as required by district policy,” Cole said in a statement. Logistics for squad sizes, she said, are affected by numerous variables and are determined by administration.

“In addition, the district provided a mini-camp/review session before tryouts, allowed parents to see their child’s score and actual video of their child’s tryout and offered to outfit the student in question as they represent Memorial High School in a different capacity as pep squad members, team managers, etc.,” she said. “PAISD also gave the parents the opportunity to present their own ideas for ways that we could highlight the creative talents of their children, all to no avail.”

Lastly, the district cited a case that went to the Supreme Court about cheerleader tryouts.

The law firm of Eichelbaum Wardell Hansen Powell & Mehl, P.C. (2016) affirm that in Piwonka v. Tidehaven Independent School District, 169 ( S.D. Tex. 1997), the Texas Supreme Court dismissed claims of violations of ‘failure to render fair and impartial cheerleading tryouts’ with prejudice. The court further renders that “…. cheerleading is a privilege and not a right and that there is no legal entitlement to being a cheerleader or dance team member.”

Mary Meaux: 721-2429

Twitter: @MaryMeauxPANews