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Video: Male cheerleader ousted for kissing a guy

By Elizabeth Chuck Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 10/14/2011 4:07:21 PM ET 2011-10-14T20:07:21

A 17-year-old senior says he was kicked off the cheerleading squad and suspended because he kissed another male at their high school in Alice, Texas.

The boy told KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi on Thursday that he was suspended after he was seen on surveillance camera with the fellow student in the school's band hall.

"They never check [school] cameras for anything unless something is stolen," the student said to KRIS, asking that his identity not be revealed. "I'm sure we were the only ones, sexual orientation-wise, being caught like that."

The teen has done cheerleading for years and had just made the varsity squad for the first time.

"It was a heartbreaker when I was told I had been kicked off," he told KRIS. He said public displays of affection are common at Alice High School, and he didn't think administrators would have targeted him had he been seen with a female.

"If that were the case, suspending everyone for that, half the school would be suspended," he said. "They should be paying more attention to drugs and alcohol use than kicking a person off a team for kissing."

His family met with school administrators on Thursday. They said they were told the two-day suspension was under review, KRIS reported.

The boy's parents said they will continue to speak out until he is allowed he allowed back on the cheerleading squad.

Some other parents agreed the boy was being unfairly punished, KRIS reported. They told the station one cheerleader who had a child and another who is currently pregnant are still on the team and have not faced any disciplinary action.

Student handbook prohibits discrimination
Alice High School, a public school in South Texas, states in its student handbook that "the district believes that all students learn best in an environment free from dating violence, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and that their welfare is best served when they are free from this prohibited conduct while attending school."

Neither Superintendent Salvador Cavazos nor Alice High School Principal Lucy Munoz would speak to msnbc.com, and they haven't spoken to other reporters, citing student privacy.

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Melonae Day, Alice's assistant superintendent of business and human resources, who is listed as the district's nondiscrimination representative on the basis of gender, also did not return a phone call from msnbc.com.

But the school district released a statement Friday afternoon that said, "While kissing is not an appropriate conduct for students at school, the District does not suspend students for kissing other students at school, regardless of the gender of the student. The matter is still under review by the District."

The handbook cites "policies and procedures to prohibit and promptly respond to inappropriate and offensive behaviors that are based on a person's race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law," but does not specifically mention sexual orientation.

Alice's statement to the press added that cheerleaders must also abide by the Cheer Program Handbook, which "requires students to adhere to a higher standard of conduct than that which applies to the general student population. Alice ISD does not discriminate against students in issuing discipline. The District has a procedure that the student may follow to dispute any disciplinary consequences."

The statement said nothing about sexual orientation. It was signed by the high school's principal.

Read the full statement here (.pdf)

New anti-bullying law may help
"There aren't any laws in Texas that protect on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, unfortunately," Chuck Smith, Deputy Executive Director of Equality Texas, an advocacy group, told msnbc.com. "The issue here is whatever is in the school's code of conduct, and whether it's being enforced equally [for gay and straight students]."

Smith said while Texas doesn't have a law that protects people based on sexual orientation, the state will be implementing a broader law for the 2012 school year.

"We did pass a new anti-bullying law, and it does have many good things in it ... It defines bullying in such a way that everyone is covered," he said.

He lauded the Alice cheerleader's parents for their involvement in the case.

"If kissing in public is not being enforced for anyone but the gay students, then that's discrimination. And if he was targeted for no other reason than that, then that's discrimination," Smith said. ""Because of the lack of protection and the laws in this state, parents taking legal action is unfortunately increasing because it's the only means to get to a just end."

Texas state law permits public schools to videotape students without a parents' consent when it pertains to school safety or "when it relates to classroom instruction or a co-curricular or extracurricular activity," Alice's handbook says.

Administrators have full authority over students who are on school premises, whether it's during or after school, according to the handbook.

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