Disabled cheerleader given the boot

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Elizabeth Tan (Grade 8)

Some call it stereotypical, others unjust. But whatever name we've labelled it, it remains the same ugly incident that tore Callie's cheerleading dream apart. Every girl dreams of being a part of the cheerleading squad, screaming away at football games on Friday nights, and Callie Smartt deserves every right to be there too.

The dictionary defines a cheerleader as a person, "who leads others in cheering for a team." Since Callie had more enthusiasm than a bouncing ball, dazzling football players and fans with her smile, wheeling along the sidelines, hollering and screaming cheers at the players, getting the fans to delight in her and share her enthusiasm, then that just couldn't possibly be the reason she was kicked off the team. She had enough spirit to motivate the entire school. So why was she kicked off the team? She has everything needed to satisfy the position of the perfect cheerleader... except legs. Could it be that the reason she was kicked off the cheerleading team had to do with a wheelchair? Well, if so, let it be recognized that it takes more than just legs to get fans to cheer. It takes spirit, and that gives Callie every reason to stay.

Cheerleading is a risk Callie chose to take. There has never been a law written banning risk-taking. If you look closely enough, everything is a risk. If you're slicing vegetables, the chances of you slicing your hand is high, though time and time again we manage to defy the risks. If you cross the street, you will always run the risk of getting hit. What may seem like the safest thing is also a risk. For example, sitting in your chair, you risk toppling over and injuring yourself. Callie understood the risks and she agreed to undertake them.

As Callie's mother said, "Callie has never been hurt on the sidelines, while other girls have suffered sprained ankles and limbs simply performing their routines." Stephon Breedlove, Callie's attorney, believes that the safety hazard excuse is based more on general fears and stereotypes rather than worrying about the actual safety of a person.

Everybody has the right to dream. Dreams are something we strive for and live on. Every teacher encourages his students to learn, to set goals, to hunger for something. However, right there in that high school, in Andrews, Texas, they're telling someone else that it's not allowed to happen. If we weren't allowed to dream, what would have happened to the world? What would have happened if the Wright brothers had never been encouraged to dream to fly? Or if Alexander Graham Bell wasn't allowed to dream about communication? It's not as though we're demanding something the world cannot give. We're asking it to allow a young lady to be able to live her dream.

In sports, one of the first stereotypes was probably broken by Jim Abbot, a one-handed pitcher. Today, he is loved by many baseball fans and his right to belong to baseball is just as strong as Callie's right to belong to cheerleading.

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