Cheerleaders kicked off squad; Some say race was a factor

By Courtney Lane - bio | email

MOUNT VERNON, TX (KLTV) - A Varsity cheerleader in Mount Vernon has been kicked off the squad and some are claiming it's racially motivated.

Michele Turner was with two other cheerleaders who got in trouble for shoplifting at an East Texas Wal-Mart. But Turner said she did nothing wrong and feels it unfair the school district bumped her off the squad her senior year.

Turner is a star basketball player and also runs track. But she didn't get sidelined in those sports, instead the board upheld a decision to kick her off the cheerleading squad.

"I tried out, I mean this is my last year and I wanted to make it," said Turner. "It meant a lot to me."

"These are the only three African American girls representing the African American community and you just kick them off the squad," said Reverend George Hargraves, who is supporting the family.

Hargraves and Turner's mother say she is innocent.

"She could very well get a scholarship for being a cheerleader," said Hargraves.  "Well they cut that all out."

"I feel like they've taken away our pride and probably the majority of people think she's a thief cause she's been accused of a crime she didn't commit," said her mother Chelitta Thomas.

Since the girls are minors, law enforcement could not confirm anything with us. But we did ask Mount Vernon's superintendent about the decision and got this response:

"Courtney I really can't respond to that because it deals with student discipline and federal law prevents me through FERPA from expanding or talking about anything with student discipline. I'd love to discuss it with you but I need to protect the district."

Though Superintendent Rick Flanagan did show me a rule which says a sponsor and principle review may result in dismissal from the squad.

"I think it may have come down to a racial thing to be honest," said Thomas.

"This town is a very small town and it's a closely-knitted town and in order for us to grow, we're going to have to grow together and put some things aside," said Rev. Hargraves.

Hargraves said he is contacting a member of the NAACP. He said even the girls that confessed to shoplifting deserve another chance.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.