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Girl With No Arms or Legs Argues Discrimination in Cheerleading Tryout Cuts

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Julia Sullivan was born with no arms or legs, but has learned how to adapt. She is a 16-year-old high school student who participates in the school marching band by attaching a cymbal to her wheelchair and hitting the instrument with a stick fastened to her arm–which ends at her elbow. However, Julia also had dreams of participating in the school’s cheerleading squad, but was cut after receiving low scores in the kicking and jumping portion of the tryouts.

Julia said she practiced with her older sister, who is a former cheerleader, before tryouts. She even worked out ways to cheer from her wheelchair–including spinning around. She received her highest marks in the communication and spirit portion of the tryouts, but complained to the school board after receiving the low marks in the kicking/jumping portion. Her father, Mike Sullivan, argues that the school violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, but the school board refused to hear the case and instead sent it to its lawyers for review. Recently, the school superintendent said that the legal opinions all supported the claim that the school’s policies and guidelines were appropriate and legitimate for all students.

In addition to participating in the school’s marching band, Julia has also taken dance lessons for 10 years. She sits on the floor with her tap shoes attached to her arms and taps out the rhythms on the floor.