Orange County student creates petition to fight restrictions keeping bands, cheerleaders from football games

Students and parents in Orange County have been fired up since district officials made a big announcement at a school board meeting Tuesday night, and now one student is fighting back.

Some students and parents expressed shock and outrage when it was announced that football games would proceed this fall but without the participation of marching bands and cheerleader squads.

"It was a bunch of confusion followed by you've got to be kidding me," said Donna Batten, whose daughter is a cheerleader for Winter Park High School.

"The only difference is that there's a difference in interest. there's absolutely no reason they should be valued any differently," said Sarah Paquette, a senior in the West Orange High School Marching Band.

District officials announced band, cheer, dance, and JROTC would not participate at football games this year in an effort to keep capacity at 25% because of coronavirus.

"I just don't think that they can pick and choose. I really don't," said Batten. "I don't care that one is called football, one is called cheer. One is a bunch of boys, one is a bunch of girls. These are strong, hardworking athletes who condition hours upon hours to perfect their skills." 

Marching band members feel equally ostracized. 

"It just said this will be canceled, and I was like 'oh you're not trying to hide your bias,'" said Paquette.

West Orange High School senior Sarah Pacquette created a petition to fight back. More than 2,000 people have signed it in fewer than 24 hours, including people affiliated with almost every Orange County high school.

"It's a community. Football is the sport but Friday nights that's all of us together, united. There's just a sense of unity I've never found replicated anywhere else," said Paquette.

"Dude, it's Friday night lights and if you're going to let the football players play, you've got to let them all play," said Batten.

Paquette plans to present her petition to the school board soon in the hopes they can find a way to get every activity back on the field this Fall.