Controversial Cheerleading Trip Sparks Policy Revision

The decision to allow the varsity cheerleaders at Hempstead High School in Dubuque, Iowa, to attend the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla., next month will be punctuated with a district-wide policy revision regarding extended domestic and foreign student trips.

Earlier this month, Larie Godinez, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District, vetoed the trip because the team didn't follow the district's policy on group travel. Godinez told reporters that the 17-member squad started collecting money for the trip before district officials approved the action, and the cheer competition isn't state sanctioned. After a series of school board meetings - some of them heated and with police presence - Godinez on Thursday officially approved the cheer team's request to attend the competition Feb. 12-13 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The superintendent - who acknowledged that she received three threats over this issue - reversed her original denial of the request based on conditions agreed to by cheer coach Jenny Kress. Those included increased oversight by Hempstead and district administration on all aspects of the trip, plus completion of required forms.

"It's too bad that the board, the district, the coaches and the team got caught up in this," one parent told Dubuque's Telegraph Herald. "Valuable time has been lost to train and fund-raise." The team is expected to depart for Orlando on Feb. 10 and return Feb. 14.

Until the school board approves the district's travel policy revisions, Godinez will continue to have authority to make exceptions to the existing policy - a multiple-page document that was revised last year from a single sentence written in 1981. Godinez said the revised policy most likely will revert back to one sentence. As the Telegraph Herald wrote in a recent editorial, "How district policies are communicated and enforced should be a topic of discussion in every school with every teacher and coach. School administrators need to make sure the policies are sound, and then stand by them."

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