Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

After banning cheerleading uniforms during class, Countryside High finds compromise

Deep in a box in the back of the school came the compromise: longer skirts, maroon with gold trim, and "from like 10 years ago," says Jeana Fraser.

A sophomore, the Countryside High School varsity cheerleader was upset last week when the school's administration deemed the squad's uniforms — specifically, their short skirts — a dress code violation.

The girls typically wore their cheer uniforms to school on game day, but were told last Friday that their skirts were too short for class time. They could wear them to the football games, but not until after the final bell.

Many other high schools in Pinellas — including Gibbs, Northeast, Lakewood, St. Petersburg and Boca Ciega — began restricting cheerleading uniforms during class time amid a broader dress code crackdown this year.

After Countryside parents protested, the school began looking for a solution. The Pinellas County Schools dress code requires skirts to fall to at least mid thigh, and requires shirts to have sleeves. The girls already were wearing sweatshirts over their sleeveless tops to meet the dress code. They balked at adding Velcro to their skirts to make them longer.

Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for the district, confirmed that the school found a set of older uniforms with longer skirts in a box and has provided them for the girls to wear during class.

The principal, Gary Schlereth, "worked with the sponsor, the cheerleaders, to make sure they have a compromise that works for everyone so they can still show their spirit during the school day and be within dress code," Marquez Parra said.

She didn't know whether there were enough of the longer skirts for all the cheerleaders, but said the school is working to make sure each girl has an option, such as a skirt from another source.

Countryside High also paid $540 to order track pants for the 18 girls on the squad. Parents said they had to pay about $100 for sweatshirts to cover their daughters' tops.

"In my opinion, this compromise seems reasonable," said David Fraser, Jeana's father. "It's more like a face-saving thing, but at least we got something for the cheerleaders."

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

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