Former Grady High cheer coach: Whole team punished for actions of a few

The Grady High School cheerleading coach who was removed from her position amid the team's suspension said she doesn't think the entire squad should be punished for what she said was the inappropriate behavior of a few girls.

In a written statement released Friday, former Grady cheer coach Shea Smith said she was "disappointed and confused" to be removed as coach. Principal Betsy Bockman suspended the varsity cheerleading team on Jan. 16 for the remainder of the basketball season.

Bockman cited concerns she had with the team’s behavior, including taunting other teams and an incident during a Jan. 15 game at Maynard Jackson High School in which she said the cheer team behaved inappropriately and made offensive remarks. The principal said cheerleaders later used profane language directed toward Maynard Jackson High School administrators, students, parents, and school police officers.

But Smith said only a few girls behaved badly and said the situation “has been blown out of proportion.”

“Overall, I do agree the behavior of a few cheerleaders was inappropriate and unacceptable, however, I don’t believe the entire cheerleading squad of 20 girls should be punished for the behavior of 3 girls,” she said.

School district officials said Thursday that in addition to suspending the entire team, two cheerleaders faced other, unspecified discipline.

Smith said she has not “nor would ever condone inappropriate behavior.”

“As a cheer coach I have always ensured the students and parents are fully aware of what is appropriate and acceptable behavior in and out school grounds and particularly for social media. In fact, at the beginning of the season they all are given the cheer guidelines that are signed and returned to me,” she said.

Smith said this was her first year as the Grady cheer coach. She said she previously coached for three years at Inman Middle School when Bockman was the principal there.

“We never had issue with my leadership as a cheer coach. And, from the start of this season at Grady High School until January, all was well. So, I’m left disappointed and confused in her decision to let me go after this,” Smith said.

She said she has recommended that the parents and principal meet as a group to discuss the issue.

Bockman on Thursday released a written statement saying, in part, that Grady strives to have every individual and team represent the school “with positive and sportsmanlike behavior.”

“We will work together to meet that goal,” she said.

The cheerleading team will be reinstated next school year.

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