Kenosha cheerleading coaches banned from competition over gag awards

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — The coaches of a Wisconsin cheerleading squad have been banned from a state competition following complaints about a banquet that included gag awards for team members' breasts and buttocks.

Kenosha Unified School District's superintendent says the Wisconsin Association for Cheer and Pom Coaches is allowing the Tremper High School cheerleaders to compete this weekend to defend their state title. The team's three coaches won't be allowed to accompany the students.

"The ban doesn't impact students and we actually worked in collaboration to have another coach from another school district that has the proper certification to be on the floor with the girls," Superintendent Sue Savaglio Jarvis said Tuesday night following a school board meeting.

The American Civil Liberties Union last week demanded action following repeated complaints about the awards from parents and a former coach to school and district officials. The ACLU said emails and other documents it obtained during a yearlong investigation showed the awards were handed out at a banquet attended by about 100 people, including coaches, family members and friends of students.

In addition to recognizing the most improved or hardest-working cheerleaders, the ACLU says so-called gag awards at the annual banquets were called "Big Booty" and "Big Boobie."

During Tuesday night's meeting, parent Kate Trudell said she was concerned with the response from the district that the awards were just a joke or meant to be funny. She said classrooms, extracurricular activities and sports banquets should not be venues to attempt humor that harasses at the expense of others.

School board member Gary Kunich agreed with Trudell saying that the district was wrong in allowing it to happen. He said the cheerleaders should not have been subject to such "vile and insensitive" awards. He said that all have expressed regret for the mistake.

The ACLU tells CBS 58 that the KUSD board president Dan Wade suggested the awards were an "isolated mistake" but the ACLU believes that to be false and wants the district to take action. "We know this to be false, as the issues of sex discrimination at KUSD are systemic and go beyond the annual awards. The District must fulfill its legal obligations and implement mandatory anti-harassment training and written policies and procedures addressing sexual harassment.”

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