Cheerleading coaches resignPublished 2:29pm Sunday, November 6, 2011
Two longtime Niles Community Schools coaches have resigned due to a disagreement they had with the athletics department over the treatment of a student/athlete.
Katie Paquette, who had been Niles’ head cheerleading coach for 20 years, resigned Tuesday. Margaret “Mo” Olinghouse, who had been the assistant cheerleading coach for 15 years, also resigned.
Both sides could not agree on how to discipline a cheerleader who admitted to consuming alcohol.
The school’s athletic handbook, referred to as “Viking Code,” says the punishment for consuming alcohol on first offense is missing half the season. According to Paquette’s team rules, the punishment for the same offense is missing the entire year.
Paquette said the athletics department decided the cheerleader would miss half the season. Athletics Director Jeff Upton said it is his policy to follow the guidelines laid out in the athletic handbook.
“We can’t have 15 different teams with 15 different rules,” Upton said. “We need to have a unified approach so students know what rules they have to follow.
“What is best for the students is one set of rules.”
Paquette said she has been using the same rules for the past eight to 10 years regarding cheerleaders consuming alcohol. She said cheerleaders sign a form at the beginning of the year saying they know and understand the rules.
“I feel like I have these rules in place and, if someone doesn’t follow them, they can just go to the athletics department,” Paquette said. “I asked him to support me and my rules, but he would not. I told him I couldn’t work for someone that would not support me.”
Paquette said she would be willing to change her team rules next year, but said she couldn’t change agreed-upon rules in the middle of the year.
“They would be meaningless,” she said.
Upton said he was unaware Paquette had her own set of team rules prior to the incident. He said the rules in the athletic handbook have been approved by the school’s board of education. Team rules, such as Paquette’s, have not gained such approval.
Paquette and Olinghouse said the decision to resign was difficult.
“It is really heartbreaking,” Olinghouse said. “There was a lot of sadness on the girls’ part. We loved working with them, but we also have to stand up for what is right. I hope the girls can look back on this and say, ‘my coach taught me how to stand up for what you believe in.’”
The school is in the process of finding replacements.