Social media erupts after cheerleader with Down syndrome not allowed on the field

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GORDON COUNTY, Ga. (WSB) – A cheer-leading controversy has been quieted in Calhoun City Schools.

Outrage erupted on social media after a student with Down syndrome was not allowed on the field with her fellow cheerleaders during a recent football scrimmage.

Grace Key is considered an honorary member of the cheer-leading squad, but her supporters say steps were taken to exclude her when game time came.

Most everyone in downtown Calhoun heard about it, but few wanted to talk about it.

“It’s not something I really want to get involved in. It’s drama almost, you know?”

Calhoun High School student Grace Key is a special case.

“There’s nothing wrong just because she’s got Down syndrome. Let her out there,” Carolyn Floyd said.

Key attended practices and was given a uniform, but her friends say during the football team’s recent scrimmage, she wasn’t allowed on the field to cheer.

Video shows the other girls inside the fence and Grace outside.

“Grace is a beautiful child who is so happy and shares that with everybody. I think the whole community will benefit from including her,” long-time resident Sally Poole said.

Poole says she’s not surprised by the outrage that erupted on social media, including an online petition signed by more than

5,000 people demanding the school system allow Grace to cheer.

Poole is a retired special education teacher she thinks she knows why there were those who did not want grace to participate.

“I feel that some people may have thought she was taking away from the glory, but I think that would be sharing glory if we give her a chance to be normal with other girls,” Poole said.

Calhoun’s first home game is this Friday.

Key is expected to be on the sidelines with the rest of the cheerleaders.

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