Lodi High School Cheer Squad Sidelined over Funding Issues

LODI -- The cheerleaders at Lodi High School have found themselves in a unique situation.

Recently, the squad was told its days of supporting the school's athletic teams on the sidelines are over.

"So the girls wouldn't be at the games, rallies, anything like that," cheerleading coach Heather Robertson said.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday evening, the school's principal told parents and cheer members that last year's cheerleaders left the squad in debt and that the school had to pay for the girl's expenses.

Sideline cheerleading is not a recognized sport. Instead, it is considered a co-curricular club and the school is not obligated to financially support them. Robertson says the debt accrued from paying for uniforms, travel and other expenses last year -- before she took over coaching duties.

"We hope that we can just have better communication between the program and the administration and just try to find our way to press on and better the program," Robertson said.

Cheerleader Mia Aponte says she recently started an online petition to raise awareness in the community. She says some of the biggest support has come from cheerleaders at other schools.

"They are really devastated for us, you know. They're thinking about who are we going to compete against when they go to games, so they're really upset just like we are," Aponte said.

The team won't go away, though.

This spring, California high schools will make competitive cheerleading a sport for the first time -- which schools will be required to fund.

But as it stands now, returning cheerleaders at Lodi High School won't be able to officially support their classmates until next year.