Lacking legs and arms isn't stopping Julia Sullivan from pursuing her dream of becoming a high school cheerleader. It is, however, leading to a complex case.
Sullivan, a student at Aurora High School in Nebraska, tried out for the school's cheerleading team, but she was unable to make it. Since then, her parents, Mike and Carolyn Sullivan, have been trying to get the school board to reverse the decision, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
The teenager's lowest marks came in the jumps/kicks category, and the Sullivans are arguing that her disability was not accommodated for in the tryouts. Kevin Schneider, the family's attorney, wrote in a letter to the school board that the sponsor of the cheerleading tryouts was told that no special accommodations would be made for the 16-year-old Sullivan, even though 75 percent of the tryouts relied on scores from the physical category.
The district's policies on discrimination were reviewed by the school's administration, board and two separate legal counsels. Damon McDonald, who has been Aurora's superintendent since July 1, said both counsels claimed the school's policies "are appropriate and legitimate for all students."
This was the third time Sullivan tried out for the cheerleading squad.
"For us, it's the basic principle" Mike Sullivan said. "Any handicapped child in Nebraska could be kept out of activities."
According to the assistant director of the Nebraska School Activities Association, Jim Angele, schools need to accommodate students in high school sports sanctioned by the state under the disabilities act. Cheerleading, however, is not state-sanctioned in Nebraska.