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Teen With Down Syndrome, Banned From Cheer Squad, Offered a Spot On Dayton Team
DAYTON -- An Ohio girl with Down syndrome, who was turned away from her high school's cheering squad, now has the chance to cheer on a Dayton team.
The Panthers Cheerleaders of Dayton have a lot of spirit, but they also have a lot of heart.
"Everyone is family here," Coach Phillip Clark said. "Nobody is better than anyone else, we are all equal."
Phillip and his wife, April, started the cheerleading squad a year ago, for their daughter Kaila, who has epilepsy and special needs.
Phillip said they wanted her to belong to a team and to have confidence.
"Last year she couldn't do a cartwheel. This year, she is doing cartwheels, and everything, and has tons of friends. We are really proud of her."
When the Clarks heard about Alison Williams, a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, who was denied a spot on her high school cheer squad in Marion, because of her disability, they wanted to help.
"We have a spot for her, for sure," Phillip said.
"If the other team doesn't want her, our whole squad would be happy to have her," 9-year-old team captain Sarah Dykes said.
Coach Phillip said he was furious about Alison's treatment, and said they would never turn anyone away.
"We want to be able to give everybody a chance to cheer. We do not discriminate against anybody."
The girls, so excited about the possibility of having a new team member, made up a cheer for her. "Go Ali!" They all chanted.
ABC 22/ FOX 45 NEWS called the Williams family about the offer, but has yet to hear back from them.
Our sister stations ABC 6/ FOX 28 in Columbus initially reported this story last week. They reported Elgin School in Marion told the teen's parents that Alison had no shot at making the squad.
"We were told that Alison could try out, [but] even with accommodations she would not meet the minimum criteria to be a cheerleader," said Alison's dad, Brian Williams.
Robin Williams said she was told Alison would be denied a place on the squad even if there were open spots remain after the completion of tryouts.
ABC 6/FOX 28 attempted to contact district officials, but messages for the superintendent were not returned. In the past, administrators have told the press the district considers this a legal matter and can't comment.
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