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Girl in Wheelchair Wants to be Cheerleader, School Says No

A battle is brewing in Nebraska over a girl who has repeatedly been turned down for a spot on her high school cheerleading squad. The reason -- she is confined to a wheelchair.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 16-year-old Julia Sullivan was born without legs, and with arms that extend only to her elbows. This spring, for the third time, she tried out to be a cheerleader at Aurora High School. For the third time, she did not make the cut.

Her parents asked the school board to correct "scoring errors" in her tryout evaluation, saying no weight was given to her disability. They cited the Americans With Disabilities Act which says a person can not be discriminated against based on their disabilities.

After a closed door meeting on Monday, Aurora Superintendent Damon McDonald said the board reviewed the district's policies and its cheerleading program with its legal counsel. They also sought a second legal opinion.

"In both cases, they came back and said the Aurora Public Schools policies and guidelines are appropriate and legitimate for all students,” said McDonald.

McDonald said making changes to accommodate Julia  “would fundamentally alter the cheerleading program in the Aurora Public Schools.”

However the family's attorney disagrees.

“We would agree that there are some activities such as football where the ability to run and tackle are fundamental to the sport,” Kevin Schneider said. “Making reasonable accommodations and modifications for cheerleading are not fundamental in that same way.”

The case is not over. The ACLU is threatening to get involved, and a lawsuit could follow.

As far as Julia is concerned, she just wants to dance, for which she has been taking lessons for 10 years now.

"They haven't seen me,” she said. “They just have it in their mind that I can't do it.”


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