Pulaski County Public Schools community reacts to Governor Northam’s recent amendment that counts band and cheer students as spectators

Published: Feb. 21, 2021 at 6:34 PM EST
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PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Pulaski County Public Schools wants to see its cheerleaders and musicians back on the field and parents in the stands at sports games. But Governor Northam’s recent amendment to Executive Order #72 makes it so less people can participate as fans.

School officials, parents and students said they hope Governor Northam will reconsider his recent amendment and include band and cheer students as participants when his new guidance is issued at the end of the month.

“I don’t think Cougar Football would be what it is without us being there to cheer on the team, and it really is an atmosphere when you come to a Cougar Football game,” Shelley Whitaker, who is on the color guard with the Pulaski County High School Marching Band, said.

Initially, Pulaski said they were classifying band members like Whitaker, along with cheerleaders, as participant players at football games.

“Well, later in the week, the governor amended the Executive Order 72 to limit attendance to 250 and gave clarification that band members and cheerleaders were to be counted in those 250, that they cannot be counted as participants or players in the football event,” said Kevin Siers, the superintendent of Pulaski County Public Schools.

With 56 band members and 17 cheerleaders now counting as spectators, less parents will be able to sit in the stands. Pulaski County Public Schools took to Facebook Sunday to say why it opposes the amendment.

“The female student athletes who are a part of every football game and the band, which is majority female participants, are excluded from being considered parts of that event,” Siers said.

The school board said they may request a Title IX investigation for the possible gender discrimination aspect of the amendment. Whitaker said band members and cheerleaders play an active role in every game and that should be recognized.

“Because we are not spectators, we are participants. In a normal game, we would be on that field pregame and halftime, we welcome our football players, we play the National Anthem,” Whitaker said.

The school system believes they can safely hold the 250 spectators and the band and cheerleaders as players.

“This stadium seats about 10,000 people, so naturally it will be very easy for us to seat 250 spectators in this stadium,” Timmy Hurst, chairman of the Pulaski County School Board, said.

This all comes ahead of Pulaski’s first football game of the season, which is Monday night against Cave Spring High School.

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