No Boys Allowed

April 6, 2018

Gabe Herdegen, a student at Jenison (Mich.) High School who was a cheerleader in elementary and middle school, is seeking to change Michigan state rules that do not allow boys to be members of high school cheer squads.

"I would like to be part of the same group and same team that I was with when I was in seventh grade," Herdegen said. "I grew up with them, I’ve looked forward to cheering with them, and now that I can’t, I wish I could."

According to Fox17, Michigan High School Athletic Association rules designate cheerleading as a female-only sport. John Johnson, Director of Broadcast Properties, said the MHSAA does not accept tax money or government funding, and so is exempt from Title IX.

"Title IX was designed to promote and protect girls’ participation opportunities,” Johnson said. "It doesn’t cut both ways.”

Herdegen's father, Paul Herdegen, said it was unfair to sideline his son because of the rules and lack of precedent.

"They ask these kids to follow rules, to be comfortable with themselves, to participate and be kind to other people; but that's not what they're doing to [Gabe]," he said.

Tom TenBrink, Superintendent of the Jenison school district, said he “would love to have” Herdegen on the team, but said the MHSAA had denied his petition to allow Herdegen to participate. He said that the team would be barred from MHSAA competitions if they allowed Herdegen to join, and if the district petitioned to make their team co-ed, they would have difficulty finding opponents.

"The unfortunate thing that you have is we then put the young ladies who are in competitive cheer,” TenBrink said, “and want to participate in MHSAA competitions, at a huge disadvantage, because if Gabe is involved with them in whatever capacity, they’re not allowed to participate in MHSAA competitive cheer."




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