“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
This inspirational statement has been taken to heart by many in disabled communities for its uplifting and liberating spirit. Unfortunately, Marion County’s Elgin High School is not taking it to heart.
It is to the school’s great shame that Allison Williams, a fourteen year-old student with Down Syndrome, was barred from its cheerleading squad. Rather than espousing a can-do, positive attitude, Elgin’s non-competitive squad, which doesn’t do tumbling or pyramids, told Alli’s parents that “even with accommodations she would not meet the minimum criteria to be a cheerleader.” Furthermore, even if spots remained open after try-outs were completed, Allison would still be denied a place on the squad.
Yet Allison loves cheerleading, and her mother says that it benefits Alli, allowing her to watch and learn from her peer cheerleaders.
Glee actress Lauren Potter portrays Becky, a cheerleader with Down Syndrome. (right)
In an age when a young woman with Down Syndrome portrays a high school cheerleader on the popular television show Glee (which also takes place in Ohio), it seems rather backwards and sadly ironic for an Ohio high school to deny Alli the opportunity to learn and grow while performing an activity that she loves. To the great credit of Ohio’s young people, Alli is finding plenty of support from other cheer teams.
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If a bad attitude is disabling, a positive attitude is enabling. Love and passion are the things that motivate us to achieve the unthinkable. And if Alli has a passion for cheerleading, denying her the opportunity to live out that passion on a non-competitive cheerleading team would seem to be truly disabling.
But whether Alli is eventually offered a place on the squad or not, she should keep her spirits high, maintaining strength through a positive attitude. Elgin High School needs to readjust its attitude to a positive, enabling one. It only cripples itself in assuming a bad attitude towards Alli.
LifeNews Note: This originally appeared at the Ohio Right to Life blog.