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Evansville parents upset over poms uniform changes

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GINA R. HEINE
December 20, 2009
— Some members of the Evansville High School poms squad and their parents are upset over the principal's recent decision to ban some of the team's uniforms because they don't meet the school's dress code.

The black spaghetti-strap tank tops and some other tops the poms have worn for years are no longer allowed. Instead, routines must be performed in zip-up jackets.


David Ammerman, whose daughter Rachel is captain of the team, said a portrait of his daughter wearing the banned tank top hangs in his living room.


"It's not showy, it's very conservative," he said. "They love to dance and just let them do it."


Parents say school administration is discriminating against the team.


Administrators say the change was made after a review of attire in all co-curricular activities.


Principal Scott Everson became a "fresh set of ears" to the community when he started in Evansville this fall, he said. He heard from concerned community members, parents and staff about the poms outfits and received an anonymous letter from a concerned student.


Everson wanted to make his own observations during the fall sports season before making any changes, he said.


"A lot of people have commented that the performances that poms give, that itself should be the entertainment, that should be what people talk about, not what they perceive is lack of appropriate dress," he said. "That's what I wanted to address with all co-curriculars."


Everson and other administrators hoped to get all co-curricular attire aligned with the student dress code, which bans halter tops, tank tops or tops with spaghetti straps that expose the chest, whole back or midriff.


"This isn't something where I'm singling out poms," he said.


Administrators may look at changing the short spandex shorts worn by volleyball players, along with setting standards for music students performing at solo and ensemble competitions, though no changes have been made yet, he said.


The district agreed to buy two sets of new poms tops for this season, "because we didn't think it was fair to limit the uniform without trying to compromise the situation," Everson said.


Everson believes the district should have two sets of standards: one for when the poms perform at sports games and another when they perform at poms/dance competitions. At sports games, he said, they are required to follow the dress code. At poms/dance competitions, the team is allowed to wear any of their uniforms unmodified.


"I think it's reasonable to believe we can have a standard for apparel at events within our community versus when they compete with other teams at, say, a Milwaukee invitational," he said.


The new uniform limitations led to a couple of parents requesting meetings with Everson. Among them was Tina Widmyer, whose daughter Alyssa is a junior on the team. Widmyer and her husband, Brian, were offended by a statement in an e-mail from District Administrator Heidi Carvin.


Carvin's e-mail reads, in part: "I think it is important that parents understand that at school sponsored functions and with school sponsored organizations our first responsibility is to uphold what we believe is the appropriate community standard. With dating violence, teen pregnancy and lack of respect for young women being issues of concern in our community we need more modesty for our local public performances."


Carvin told the Gazette she was not trying in her e-mail to imply that poms members contribute to those problems, but setting higher modesty standards can help overall. She said she's representing her beliefs and others in the community who have expressed concerns to her over the years.


The school recognizes poms as a sport, but the WIAA does not. Sports teams competing against other teams in WIAA competition have uniform expectations, but because the WIAA does not recognize poms as a sport, Everson said the school is using the dress code as the standard.


Widmyer gave Everson a copy of the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches dress standards, and Widmyer agreed to look into the rules other schools have for poms attire. She also asked the school board to address the issue.


Stacie Woodworth, whose daughter Alexa has been dancing since she was 5, said costumes are important to dance, and limiting them might deter younger girls from wanting to be involved.


"I just think that you are basically putting a black cloud over these girls," she said.


Ammerman said the administration has blown the situation way out of proportion and its new rules almost make society take a step back in time.


"If people are worried, they should probably educate their kids more," he said.



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