High school cheerleaders protest in Riverside over state's ban on sideline cheerleading

New California state guidelines will not allow sideline cheer, band, drumline or other "supporting groups" to attend sporting events. The guidelines were released Tuesday.

Leann Cuenca, a parent with a cheerleader at Martin Luther King High School, said their team did not find out about the new guidance until Wednesday. She organized a protest at the high school Thursday with more than 50 student athletes.

"These girls work so hard. It's just as important to be on those sidelines as it is to be able to do the CIF part of it and do the stunting and do those routines," she said.

Cuenca described the decision as "unfair."

"It's not equal that the football players get to be out there during this pandemic touching each other, sweating on each other, possibly bleeding on each other and these girls can't stand six feet apart on a box or on a field to be able to do what they love," said Cuenca.

Cuenca and other parents have tried contacting the Riverside Union School District, state leaders and county leaders.

"The district's pointing fingers at the county. The county's pointing fingers at the state. Nobody knows what the guidelines were. Nobody's clarifying anything. Nobody's fighting for these kids so they're getting the short end of the stick," she said.

The state guidelines distinguish sideline cheer from competitive cheer, and competitive cheer is currently allowed.

Some of the high school students said they feel "robbed."

"Finally getting cheer back felt like I can finally do what I love and the fact that we can't cheer at games anymore, I just feel like another thing has been taken from us," said Kaylee Siliezar, a junior cheerleader at La Sienna High School in the Alvord Unified School District.  

Avery Navarro, who is a senior cheerleader at Martin Luther King High School, is also disappointed.  

"We can be on our boxes with masks on and six feet apart. We don't have to stunt. We don't have to tumble. We can stay on our boxes at all times and it'll be easy for us to cheer. I feel terribly robbed because we are more spread out than the football players," she said.

A student cheerleader at La Sierra High School, Arianna Paz, started a petition and already has more than 1,000 signatures.

The state guidelines also impact band students  like Yescenia Hirschaeur, a sophomore at La Sierra High School, who attended the protest Thursday.

"It's really sad not to be in the stands anymore. I want to be there and support my team and support everybody that's there, and the cheerleaders," she said.

More information about the new guidelines can be found here.

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