A group of high school cheerleaders in North Carolina have been placed on probation for the remainder of the 2019 season by the North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA) after they posed with a large Trump 2020 campaign banner at a school football game.
As reported by the Charlotte Observer, cheerleaders at North Stanly High School (New London, N.C.) were pictured posing with a re-election campaign banner for President Donald Trump at the school’s football game against rival West Stanly (New London, N.C.). The photos were circulated online, gathered attention and eventually, inspired NCHSAA officials to place the North Stanly cheerleaders on probation for the remainders of the 2019 season.
West Stanly won the football face off in a 42-0 blowout.
While being placed on probation sounds bad, in effect it serves as a slap on the wrist warning. There is no tangible penalty for being on probation, only the promise of a more stiff response if that probation is violated with a similar transgression.
In the case of the North Stanly cheerleaders, that means staying away from all political and controversial banners, even though many members of the community came to the cheerleaders’ defense.
For their part, officials from the Stanly County Board of Education insisted that they were not attempting to curtail their students’ freedom of speech, only ensure they did not engage in anything resembling a political campaign while wearing their official school uniforms because the school uses public funds.
“This policy does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities,” district officials said in a release that came out Monday. “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 now, no real substantive penalties are in the offing. But now the North Stanly cheerleaders know that penalties will come their way should they violate their probation.