COEUR d'ALENE - The comprehensive dress code policy adopted a year ago by the Coeur d'Alene School District applies to all students, even cheerleaders in uniform on game day.
Leslie Damiano, the parent of a Viking cheerleader, attended Monday's school board meeting and told trustees that her daughter and the rest of the girls on the cheer squad learned at practice Wednesday that their cheer uniforms violate dress code and can no longer be worn to school.
Damiano said she was speaking on behalf of the cheerleaders who sat in the audience wearing their Viking blue and black outfits.
She asked the board members to think back to their own high school days, when on Fridays, they saw their cheerleaders in uniform.
"You knew right away, 'We've got a game tonight. Friday night lights are up. They're on,'" Damiano said.
She said she believes that cheerleaders in uniform boost the morale of the athletes and help unify the students to support their team.
"And I would hate to see a tradition that is so long and strong in America be done away with in Kootenai County, or in School District 271, because of a technical matter," Damiano said, before asking the cheerleaders to stand so the school board members could see them. "You can see that these uniforms are not risque."
Damiano brought pictures of herself as a cheerleader in the 1980s and shared them with the board. Although the Viking cheer uniforms haven't changed much since that time, Damiano noted that the skirts are no longer pleated.
"So when they spin around, they don't fly up like ours did in the 1980s," she said.
Damiano told the board that cheer is year-round, requiring months of practice and a substantial financial outlay, costing each cheerleader $700 to be on the team.
"I feel that if we give them this mandate that they cannot carry out this time-honored tradition of wearing their uniforms to school, it does a lot to tear down their morale while they're supposed to be building morale at their school," Damiano said.
She asked the board for a ruling that would specifically allow Coeur d'Alene High School cheerleaders to wear their uniforms to school.
Superintendent Hazel Bauman said the dress code is a district policy, so in order to make an exception for uniforms, they would have to put it in place at all district schools. The point of the dress code, Bauman said, is to eliminate distractions from the classroom so the focus is on teaching and learning at a time when dress standards have become increasingly immodest throughout society.
"We were seeing this more and more in our schools," Bauman said.
While there are traditions about students wearing their uniforms to school, Bauman said that not all teams wear their game clothes during class. She pointed to the swim and girls volleyball teams as examples.
The cheerleaders have been offered a compromise, Bauman said.
"The girls could wear the uniforms ... but they would put either warm-ups or leggings underneath their skirts since they are so short," she said.
Bauman said the cheerleaders' tops - tank style, sleeveless, v-necks - did not appear to violate the dress code.
"So I think we could make that compromise, that they could wear their tops, and if they put leggings on underneath their skirts, they'd be good to go," Bauman said. "They could still be a very visible force, and show that Viking and Timberwolf pride on gameday, and we wouldn't have that slippery slope of the other girls saying, 'Well, why can't I wear my little short mini-skirt to school too?' So that would be my recommendation."
Damiano said she thought that compromise would work, but most of the cheerleaders don't have their warm-ups yet. She said they have been ordered, and requested that the girls be allowed to wear their skirts until the pants arrive.
Bauman said she would think about it, and that she would give Damiano an answer early today. Bauman also noted that the dress code policy was adopted a year ago, and the district began enforcing it in January.
"This was the first the girls had heard about it," Damiano said.