STANLY COUNTY, N.C. - A North Stanly High School cheer squad is getting support from a local congressman after they were placed on probation for displaying signs supporting President Donald Trump at a local football game last month.
U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (NC-08), whose district includes Stanly County, sent the North Carolina High School Athletic Association a letter questioning the probation of North Stanly High School cheerleaders after they were pictured with other students holding the political sign.
Here is the full letter that was sent to FOX 46 Charlotte on Tuesday:
"Dear Commissioner Tucker,
It has recently come to my attention that cheerleaders at North Stanly High School were put on probation for the remainder of their season because they were pictured with other students holding political sign at a football game.
As the representative of Stanly County, I am appalled these students are being punished for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
As leaders, we should be encouraging America’s youth to participate in our democracy and political process – not punishing and silencing them. These North Stanly students respectfully displayed a sign and took a picture. They did not cause a scene, participate in a protest or break any school code of conduct.
In fact, the Stanly News and Press reported, “the school system did not discipline any of the students because there were no violations of the student code of conduct.” Why were they put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and what specific NCHSAA rule(s) did they violate?
At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment. I ask this not only as the federal representative of Stanly County, but also as a proud graduate of North Carolina public schools and a former NCHSAA athlete."
The school said a student attending the game brought the Trump flag back inside, and the picture was taken before the game started, and Stanly County superintendent Dr. Jeff James says the team was told not to do it again.
The NCHSSA said the probation was not a punishment, but a "notice of behavior or action that is against NCHSAA Handbook Policy or contrary to expectations of sportsmanship and proper behavior." They said if the behavior continues, fines or suspensions could be implemented.
The Stanly County School system says their own investigation into the picture discovered no ill intent and said that while students are free to express themselves in a respectful manner, politics are to stay out of school events.