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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Kenosha School Board President Defends District's Handling Of Cheerleading Awards

A Tremper High School cheerleading coach handed out awards drawing attention to girls' body parts. Now the ACLU is asking the district to answer for its handling of this and other incidents.

Updated at 12:07 p.m.

The Kenosha News reports that three Tremper High School cheer coaches have been barred from attending a state competition their team is participating in this weekend. It also reports two coaches will resign at the end of the school year.  

Original Story at 11:36 a.m.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Kenosha's school board president defended administrators’ handling of an incident that has drawn national attention and a threat of legal action from the ACLU.

The ACLU of Wisconsin sent the Kenosha Unified School District a demand letter last week requesting the district address alleged gender discrimination. The ACLU details one situation that it says demonstrates how the district fails to protect female students from sexist behavior.

The incident happened last March at a Tremper High School cheerleading banquet. A female coach gave student athletes "big boobie" "big booty" and "string bean" awards in front of their parents and peers. It was not the first year such awards had been handed out.  

After complaints, the coach apologized, but she was not forced to resign.

The ACLU says that Tremper’s principal told concerned parents that the awards were supposed to be funny.

That is the part of the story that most bothered Kate Trudell, a mother of a Kenosha middle schooler. She was the only member of the public to speak out about the cheerleading awards at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Credit Emily Files / WUWM
Parent Kate Trudell was the only member of the public to speak out at a Kenosha school board meeting Tuesday, following the ACLU's accusations of pervasive gender discrimination in the district.

“My main concern about this issue is the response from administration that the awards were just a joke or meant to be funny,” Trudell said. “This response is commonly used to justify harassing words or actions, but it’s not a defense.”

Two school board members, Gary Kunich and Rebecca Stevens, responded with contrition.

“Ms. Trudell, you’re right,” Kunich said. “We were wrong.”

But the board president, Dan Wade, defended the school district, saying the situation was handled properly. 

“What happened at Tremper was truly unfortunate … an isolated mistake that all involved deeply regret and was made without ill intent,” Wade said.

Listen to Kenosha school board president Dan Wade's full comments related to the cheerleading awards incident.

Then, Wade chided the media for making a big deal out of something that happened a year ago.

He encouraged people to go to the Kenosha school district’s Facebook page and share positive stories. Wade said then maybe Kenosha would go viral for the great things it does.

The board president did not indicate how the district would respond to the ACLU’s demands for action. The ACLU has given the district a deadline of March 1 before it takes legal action.

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Emily is WUWM's education reporter and a news editor.
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