Family, school clarify after social media outrage over 'benched cheerleader fighting Leukemia'

Family, school clarify after social media outrage over 'benched cheerleader fighting Leukemia'

GRANITE FALLS, NC (WBTV) - A Caldwell County family and the school district are setting the record straight after outrage on social media after a preteen girl, currently undergoing treatment for Leukemia, was believed to be kicked off her middle school cheer team because of her treatments.

Twelve-year-old Alison was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in February 2015, when she was just 11-years-old. The preteen attended Granite Falls Middle School at the time of her diagnosis.

According to the school, staff and students offered an outpouring of love and support, sold T-shirts, held fundraisers, visited Alison in the hospital and sent meals to family.

"GFMS has been great, they did make bracelets and some shirts in support," Alison's mom, Jennifer Bowman, wrote on Facebook.

Outrage was sparked after Alison's grandmother, Janice Clark, posted online that Alison had been "kicked off the [cheer] team."

"They said since she could not come to school because she has to go every week down to Levine's Children Hospital in Charlotte, NC to have Chemo, she could not be a team player," Clark posted online.

Bowman also initially wrote that Alison was asked to be a part of the GFMS cheer squad.

"She did not ask [to be on the squad]! She has been great," Bowman posted online. "Actually gave her a lot to look forward to. That is a reason it was done."

Clark posted that the school knew Alison had ALL when they "put her on the squad" and said her doctors have no issue with her being on the team, saying it was "a good physical therapy."

"They even want their uniform back," Clark continued. "They have really upset Allison and as if she does not have enough to deal with fighting cancer."

School officials say Alison was never kicked off the team, in fact, she was never on the team.

GFMS made Alison an honorary cheerleader as a good will gesture, according to school officials. She never did try outs and was never required to come to games. She was given a cheer outfit and can participate at will.

"The Caldwell County School System feels an obligation to clarify some of the inaccuracies in the content of the message that has created such an emotional and stirring response from the community at large," school officials said in a message to the media on Friday. "[Alison] continues to be an Honorary Member of the Granite Falls Middle School cheerleading squad, and she continues to be eligible to participate. There has not been an interruption of her status as an Honorary Member."

"As with all students enrolled in public education, regardless of their exceptionalities or circumstances, a public education is provided and customized for the extenuating circumstances that may affect any child," school officials said. "Some of these educational services denote limitations of involvement based on the well-being of the student."

Alison participates in a "homebound program" with the Caldwell County School district. School officials say for the services she receives, there are restrictions about participating in extracurricular activities.

School officials feel very hurt.

"They have done nothing but show their love and care on their personal time," school officials told WBTV. "Now they're getting all these hurtful comments, they are crushed."

Friday morning, hours after thousands of people had read Clark's initial post, Bowman posted a plea on Facebook in an attempt to clear the air.

"Please do not contact the school. We have been in touch and the miscomunication was fixed," Bowman wrote. "This is an amazing school and a wonderful community, please let it die out. We love all the staff at GFMS and they are behind us 100%"

Bowman said she didn't have time to contact anyone at the middle school "before the feed was blown up."

"Thank you for standing behind my daughter and showing the love and support," she wrote.

Bowman believes the miscommunication came with the person who runs the homebound program.

Her goals are that Alison continue to cheer and be part of the homebound program and as of now, it appears that this will happen.

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