Press Release September 17, 2019:
Stanly County Schools is aware of the public interest regarding North Stanly High School student athletes during a football game on August 30, 2019.
It is important to clarify the following points as it relates to this issue:
- During the football game that evening, the cheerleaders, while in uniform, held up a political campaign sign.
- Neither Stanly County Schools nor North Stanly High School disciplined the cheerleaders for this action.
- The focus of an athletic event should be on our students – not politics – which is why the school board has a policy that prohibits the distribution of political campaign material at school events or school publications. This policy is in place to ensure the school system remains neutral on political issues and the focus remains on our students.
- This policy does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities. Because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the display of the sign could be perceived as the school or school system endorsing a political campaign. For this reason, the only action Stanly County Schools has taken is to ask the cheerleaders not to display the sign again.
- Upon becoming aware of this matter, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association placed the cheerleading squad on probation for the remainder of the football season. Probation is not a punishment, but the school is put on notice that further actions or behaviors that go against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior by the same team or school will be subject to punishment, in accordance with Handbook Rule 3.2.
- The NCHSAA did not suspend the cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders were present at the football game on September 13 and will be present at all remaining games during the season.
- The NCHSAA is the governing body for inter-scholastic athletics in North Carolina. As a member of the NCHSAA, Stanly County Schools is required to comply with all NCHSAA rules and regulations.
Again, the focus of Friday night football games should be on our students – the players, cheerleaders, band members – the focus should not be on politics. For this reason, we are hopeful the situation will resolve, and our student athletes can have a successful fall season and unite the Comet school spirit for the remainder of the year.