Girl with Down syndrome will serve as honorary cheerleader following controversy

Let Grace cheer

- All she wanted to do was cheer. On Monday, Calhoun High School student Grace Key, who has Down syndrome, got her wish. In a written statement, officials with the Calhoun City Schools announced she would be made an honorary cheerleader.

Key's family first took to Facebook to voice their concern last week, claiming school officials wouldn’t allow Grace to cheer with the squad after practicing all summer.

Grace's sister Cara wrote, “After spending her summer going to practices and learning all the different cheers, someone decided it would be a [sic] issue to have Grace on the field cheering with everyone else... She stayed outside the fence separate from everyone else the entire game... wondering why she wasn't allowed to cheer on the field like all of her friends.”

Calhoun City Schools released a statement Friday noting the district strives to “serve all students in a fair and equitable manner” and would be meeting with Grace's parents on Monday.

Following that meeting school officials released images of a smiling Grace and a second statement saying in part:

“Understanding that there are certain limitations of students with special needs, the cheerleading coach invited a student with Down Syndrome to participate in pre-game activities which includes cheers, dances and being on the field while the band enters and the football players run through the sign. While the student did not meet the try-out qualifications, she has been included as an honorary member of the team.”

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