By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Public outrage in the San Benito High School varsity cheerleading controversy, in which seniors have been accused of bullying and discriminating against a handicapped cheerleader, prompted local officials to assign the girls protection for Friday evening’s matchup between the Greyhounds and McAllen Bulldogs.
Authorities with the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Police Department confirmed Friday that security guards were asked to accompany the cheerleaders to the game for their protection. In addition, the cheerleaders’ parents indicated that the game was not mandatory to attend for the varsity squad.
Such action was necessary, parents said, due to allegations made by SBHS varsity cheerleader Alexandria Hernandez, a senior with a prosthetic leg, and Noe Treviño, who identified himself as the girl’s uncle and advocate. Specifically, Hernandez, on a local TV news station, accused the squad of bullying her by not including her in a photo that shows 10 senior cheerleaders. Hernandez said she felt “left out.”
“We’re supposed to have one on the bus, and from what I understand the one on the bus is supposed to hook up with McAllen police and advise them of the situation,” Colleen Duncan, a parent of one of the varsity cheerleaders, said before Friday’s game. “Parents will sit as close to the girls as we can, because we decided as a team that we weren’t going to let her (Hernandez) stop us. We have done nothing wrong.”
The photo in question was first scheduled to appear in a privately-paid full page advertisement in this year’s football program, then as a scoreboard message at Bobby Morrow Stadium. The ads, however, were pulled at the best of school district officials in response to complaints made by Treviño, who has claimed that the cheerleaders were discriminating against Hernandez for not including her in the photo. That’s when Duncan’s husband, Robert Duncan, had t-shirts made with the picture.
Duncan, however, has argued that there was no malicious intent in not including Hernandez in the photo, which she referred to as a group of friends who innocently took a picture.
Treviño sees the matter differently.
“There’s 11 senior varsity cheerleaders,” Treviño said. “Not 12, 14 or 16. It’s 11 senior varsity cheerleaders on that squad, with Alexandria being the 11th cheerleader, and they took that picture of 10. Now her (Duncan’s) reason is because these girls have been friends since freshmen year. They all decided to get together to take that picture. Last year was Alexandria’s first year as a cheerleader. I went to mandatory meetings and all the moms hated each other. They were all in groups of two or three. …They were not friends.”
Pointing to current and past football programs, Duncan said that it’s common for individuals involved in various extracurricular activities—such as the band, belles and color guard—to publish photos exclusively showing certain members.
“This is very disturbing,” Duncan said in response to the criticism levied at the squad. “We feel cheated, because we had five seniors once and only three seniors did a page (in the program), and they labeled it varsity cheerleaders. It’s throughout the whole program. The belles do it, the cheerleaders do it, the band does it and football players do it, and ours was kicked off because of a complaint.”
The complaints continue, but this time it was Duncan who filed a report with the San Benito Police Department on Thursday, accusing Treviño of following her daughter and other cheerleaders in his vehicle and intimidating them.
“She’s very fearful of the uncle (Treviño),” Duncan said of her daughter.” I filled out paperwork at the PD about him following her around and staring at her, even when volunteering at a public event. There have been other incidents with the uncle, and the parents are scared that he’s going to do something to one of the girls … not on purpose but an accident could happen if he’s in his car and following them. I don’t know what his purpose is staring at my daughter, but it makes her feel extremely uncomfortable.”
“That’s a bunch of lies,” Treviño responded. “They’re just trying to find a way to make Alex look bad. They’re the ones doing the t-shirts, the scoreboard and the program. Not only that, but they got a copy of the picture and put it in the locker rooms.”
Treviño added, “I don’t have time for stuff like that (following cheerleaders), and they’re the ones doing stuff like that. If I take Alexandria to McDonald’s or Whataburger or to the band hall, it’s because she’s in band, but I don’t have time for that. I don’t have the time to be messing with those people. I don’t have any reason to follow anybody.”
Furthermore, cheer parents who wished to remain anonymous said that the cheerleaders attempted to organize a party for Hernandez last year—this in celebration of her placement on the squad—but were met with refusal. Treviño said he was unaware of such attempts.
In the meantime, Duncan said she’s moving forward with filing charges against Hernandez for allegedly accosting her at the Oct. 11 pep rally. It was at the SBHS gym where Duncan said Hernandez shouted vulgarities at the parent and blamed her t-shirt for an ailment.
“She just came up, grabbed me by the shirt and told me that because of my shirt I caused her to have cancer,” Duncan said previously. “She was using the f-word all over, and she was shaking and had her fingers in my face … just screaming at me. I wasn’t touching her, I wasn’t engaging her, and when my husband said, ‘Someone come get her away from my wife,’ that’s when the girl’s uncle said not to touch her.”
Citing the San Benito High School Cheerleader Constitution, which states that “immediate dismissal” occurs in the event of a “verbal or physical confrontation with the sponsor, a member, student, staff or parent and the use of foul or profane language, threats, or any indecent gestures,” Duncan said Hernandez has long been in violation of the squad’s bylaws yet anticipates little to no action being taken.
“She’s been doing this for a long time, but the school never holds her accountable,” Duncan said.
Treviño believes that Hernandez was driven to the outburst and should therefore not be punished.
SBPD Assistant Operations Chief Michael Galvan said Friday evening that at least one other parent has filed charges against Hernandez over an incident similar to what occurred at the pep rally.