STANLY COUNTY, N.C. - The Stanly County cheerleaders who ended up at the center of controversy after posing with a Trump 2020 banner are no longer on probation, according to school officials.
The announcement was made at a Stanly County School Board meeting Thursday night after the North Carolina High School Athletic Association decided to lift the probation on the North Stanly High School squad.
Two weeks ago a Friday night football game was rescheduled following a rally in support of cheerleaders. Those same supporters brought their concerns from the side of the road to a podium in front of district leaders.
"We want to know the real reason the school board cancelled the game,” said Jeremy Onitreb, a supporter of the cheerleaders.
The school board started off the meeting saying it never intended to punish the cheerleaders, but instead use the picture as a teachable moment, and that the decision to suspend them came from the North Carolina Athletic Association who called it a violation of policy.
"There was nothing wrong with it whether it had been an Obama flag, Bernie flag, there was nothing wrong with it,” Onitreb said.
However, the NCHSSA said the team violated their policies on schools promoting political campaigns since they were in uniform representing the school. The organization also says 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."
First amendment rights is the stance that those in support of the cheerleaders took, adding that the game never should have been moved.
"People elected these school board members to have the communities best interest at heard and I don't think they did,” said supporter Jay Thaxton.
But the district says the decision says to postpone the scheduled game had nothing to do with first amendment rights and everything to do with safety.
“Our intent was to keep our children safe. I would not send my daughter to a game with 70 officers that tells the story period. There was a thought that something was going to happen at the game and it would have probably still been safe but we made the best decision possible,” Superintendent Jeff James said.
The superintendent says because of privacy laws he was not able to disclose specifics about some of the threats received prior to the game but did say they were not credible.
As for the cheerleaders, their probation dismissal is effective immediate five weeks earlier than the previous length.