RRISD throwing out ‘zero tolerance’ approach after cheerleaders were kicked off the squad for vaping

Investigations

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Following a wave of cheerleaders getting kicked off the Westwood High School varsity squad in October, KXAN has learned the school district is doing away with all “zero tolerance” discipline policies for students starting next school year.

Westwood cheerleaders removed from squad
(KXAN Photo/Andrew Choat)

At the time, the Round Rock Independent School District said more than half a dozen team members were removed due to code of conduct violations that were part of the zero-tolerance section in the WHS cheer handbook. Cheerleaders told KXAN the violations involved old photos found on social media of the girls vaping, which they claim were taken prior to signing the zero-tolerance policy last summer.

When KXAN followed up with RRISD about the policy this week, which does not apply to all sports and clubs across the district, Executive Director of Communications Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said the RRISD was moving away from the “one and done” approach after administrators reviewed the policies and decided they were “outdated.”

“Policies will be updated for the upcoming year to be more consistent across the board and to allow for second chances when warranted. We are trending toward restorative practices rather than simply punitive consequences at all levels of discipline and the “zero tolerance” policies do not align with that approach.”

Jenny LaCoste Caputo, Executive Director of Communication and Community Relations

A committee has been formed to examine the best way to draft a new policy that takes these new factors into account, according to Caputo.

She went on to say there could still be some infractions that rise to the level of permanent removal from a team, club or organization.

KXAN is working to get clarification on how the new policies will be implemented and how they will apply to sports, clubs and other organizations.

Lacrosse players not kicked off the team over drug use

KXAN started digging deeper into the ‘zero tolerance’ issue after a tip came in recently stating two Westwood High School lacrosse players were caught at a home football game high on marijuana and were not kicked off the team. The viewer , who asked to remain anonymous, called it a “double standard.”

“If there is a zero tolerance policy for cheerleaders, why aren’t male athletes who represent the school on the field, with the school’s logo and name on their uniforms, held to the same standard?” the viewer asked.

Caputo confirmed the two athletes admitted to smoking pot before coming to the game. She said their parents were called, and the students received 30 days’ alternative placement.

She went on to say lacrosse is considered a club sport, and is not regulated by the University Interscholastic League. Like other clubs on campus, participation guidelines and a code of conduct are decided on and enforced by coaches and club boards made up of parents and volunteers.

According to Caputo, different programs have varying levels of requirements and consequences. She did not know offhand how many sports and organizations district-wide currently have zero-tolerance policies in place.

Caputo said the Westwood cheerleading program put the policy in place because it is “considered a student leadership organization and has high standards.”

“It’s unfair. Nobody knows who’s playing by what [rules],” said Georgetown attorney Jessica Presswood. “If we want to have a zero tolerance policy, then it should apply across the board to everybody.”

Presswood is now representing six of the Westwood cheerleaders kicked off the squad. She has been attending grievance hearings to fight the school’s decision.

“Our goal is to absolutely make a change district-wide and to make sure that this isn’t going to happen to somebody else,” said Presswood.

She was happy to hear about the policy changes coming to RRISD.

Caputo said the cheerleaders removed from the team have been given an opportunity to return or re-try out for the squad once they have completed education classes specific to the violations.

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