Concerned parents speak out about possible Cook High School discrimination

The Cook High School cheer team is recognized as a coed team on the Georgia High School website.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 7:06 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ADEL, Ga. (WALB) - A mom said she’s fighting against discrimination in the Cook County school system. She claims her son was told he couldn’t join the high school competition cheerleading team based on his gender.

“I just like, really just wanted to cheer,” said Maliq Vickers, a Cook Middle school student. “I was really surprised. And after I found out it was because of my gender, I was even more confused.”

After trying out for the Cook High School competition cheer team for next year, he was told he couldn’t join the team. His mother was outraged because of the reason why.

Larissa Waldon said she wants change throughout the school system.
Larissa Waldon said she wants change throughout the school system.(walb)

“It was the response of, ‘well, it’s going to be all girls this year, we’ll revisit co-ed this year’ and I was appalled,” she said.

Jaylon Thomas, Vickers’ brother, was even more shocked as he just finished up a cheer season with the team in November. He was actually at his brother’s cheer tryouts after he was asked to help out. He added that what happened to his brother is the exact same thing that happened to him.

”I just put in extra work trying to make myself better than what they thought I would be,” Thomas said.

Jaylon Thomas, left, and Maliq Vickers, right, both have a passion for competition cheerleading.
Jaylon Thomas, left, and Maliq Vickers, right, both have a passion for competition cheerleading.(walb)

That hard work has paid off as Thomas said he’s gotten scholarships from cheering and has colleges eyeing him for their cheer teams. Larissa Waldon, Vickers’ mom, said she wants those same opportunities for Vickers.

“They can get full-ride scholarships to college and what parent wouldn’t want their child to have a full ride to college?” Waldon said.

Larissa said after getting some support, the Cook High cheer coach has offered for Vickers to be on the team. But at this point, the family is not accepting that.

“The fact that they’re trying to come back and now put him on the team, you can’t undo that hurt,” Marshall Waldon, Vickers’ dad said.

Larissa has since written a letter to the Cook County Board of Education and to the Office of Civil Rights Education. She’s still waiting to hear back from both. Cook High School responded with this:

The Georgia High School’s website, the Cook High School cheer team’s division is listed as a co-ed team.

The school’s handbook also includes gender equity in the sports code. It reads “State law prohibits discrimination based on gender in athletic programs of local school systems”. But Title IX does not cover cheerleading. Larissa said there needs to be a change.

“Boys already deal with a lot in society as is and to see them experience that discrimination according to their gender is hurtful,” she said.