17-year-old cheerleader with Down syndrome kicked off squad because he did not fit in with their 'image'
Glenn Wilson, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome from Columbus, Ohio, had been ecstatic when he was picked to be a part of the West High School cheerleading squad earlier this year
Expressing their complete shock, the family of a cheerleader in high school with Down syndrome has said that he was banned from training sessions with the squad because he apparently did not fit their "image". Seventeen-year-old Glenn Wilson from Columbus, Ohio, had been ecstatic when he was picked to be a part of the West High School cheerleading squad earlier this year and had immediately set to work starting his training.
The family, however, started getting worried when his starter kit that contains training schedules and costs for the uniform did not get delivered over the summer holidays. Glenn's uncle, 47-year-old Ray Valentine, contacted the school to find out what happened and was told that his nephew, who is currently being looked after by his grandmother who is also his legal guardian since he was a baby, was not included in the team.
The Daily Mail reported that the uncle claimed the coach told him that Glenn would not be a right fit for the "image" of the squad and that she did not have any experience dealing with children with special needs. Since the incident, the high school student has been allowed to perform at football games in the school with the most recent one being on September 21. He has only been allowed to train with the rest of the squad, however, since September 24.
The Columbus Board of Education said that they are looking into the matter and have admitted that some mistakes were made regarding the situation. Glenn's uncle Valentine, who is a florist, told the publication: "My nephew didn't fit "the image" she wanted for the squad so she removed him. This is just an absolute mess. It is total discrimination." Glenn's grandmother, 69-year-old Carolyn Sue Morris, added: "I just wonder how many other kids have been discriminated like this because it's so unfair."
As a child, Glenn always dreamt of making it to the cheerleading team after he watched his older cousins taking part in competitions. Once he joined West High School, the teen made it a point to become a cheerleader for the Cowboys. He tried out for the team in the spring semester and was accepted into the squad. Valentine said: "He was the happiest kid when he found out. You would have thought he had just been handed a million dollars and three puppies. He practiced his cheers all summer at home, and he was showing us his cheers, his splits, and his heel stretches."
Glenn and his grandmother, who is a retired nursing home attendant, did not hear from the staff members who had offered him a place on the squad, all summer. The loving grandmother said: "He kept asking when the practice was going to start. At the end of August, the cheer supervisor called and said that she didn't have a spot for him on the team, but that he could be a waterboy. That's when I out he was no longer on the cheer squad. Glenn was sad, but I kept telling him that we were going to get to the bottom of it."
She then reached out to her son, Valentine, who then called the coach two days after his nephew started school on August 25. He said: "The coach said that she didn't have any experience in dealing with special-needs students. She also said that he did not fit the image that she wanted to portray of the squad. She said, 'I'm the coach, I make the final decision.' When I spoke about it at the Columbus city school board meeting people were speechless and in total shock."
When the teen went back to school filled with hope after his summer holidays were over, he was allowed to participate in a couple of games but the coach allegedly banned him from going for squad training. One month since the academic year started, Glenn has already missed out on eight cheer practices with the squad.
Carolyn said: "The only time that he had got to practice with the team was at the actual games. He did the cheers just like the rest of the team, and that's without any squad practices. The kids just love him. During his first game all the girls on the team hollered and clapped for him. It's unfair because I'm sure a lot of other children have been discriminated against like him. They've just had no one to step up to the plate for them. I love him with all my heart, and he deserves his place on the team."
A spokesperson for the Columbus City Schools, Scott Varner, said: "He is a full member of the cheerleading team. We are looking into the matter to try and understand what had happened. There may have been some mistakes that were made and we are trying to look into what those mistakes were. He's just like any other cheerleader on that team, and he is not being excluded in any way."
Valentine, however, said: "We won't give up until the coach is forced to reconsider her position." Glenn's grandmother also added: "No matter what they have or what they are, each child deserves the chance to do what they want to do in life. These kids need attention, not discrimination."