School needs to address safety

We would like to add to your concern of the incident involving our high school football quarterback. We agree. That could have been tragic! We would like to tell our experiences with the high school athletic program.

Last October at our homecoming game, our daughter, a varsity cheerleader, was injured. The squad was practicing a routine just before halftime while in a full extension liberty and fell to the ground. Those of you who don't know what that is, it's standing on other members' palms, upright in the air, balancing on one foot. This stunt was only successfully accomplished two out of eight attempts the week of homecoming.

We now know according to the National Cheerleaders Association rules for high school that the stunts are not to be performed unless they are successfully completed eight out of 10 attempts in practice and on floor mats in a quiet and well lit environment with no distractions prior to a performance. While practicing, there are supposed to be spotters front and rear with two bases, one on the left and one on the right.

Now, if you picture the ground sloping down in front of you, it's obvious. If you fall, you're going forward. There was no front spotter.

Also, cheerleaders are not allowed to wear artificial nails, another obvious oversight, which her left spotter/base was wearing and that was the direction (forward/left) that she fell. It was her right base/spotter that actually broke her fall by being alert and quick. In other words, she ran all the way across the other spotter. If this very close friend of our daughter's had not run and slowed her fall, she would not have landed on her arm and would have broken her neck instead.

Now, let's get to the injury. After making our way through the stands, we approached our daughter lying on the ground. We had to fight our way through the junior varsity squad still practicing 3 feet from our daughter's feet. The JV squad's coach at the time was also the high school nurse. The athletic director, Mr. Casson, finally had her move the girls back so we could get to our daughter. When a football player is down, you sure don't see other players on the field practicing.

The sight was gruesome. Her arm was bent in the middle, obviously broken. Her coach and the rest of her squad were discussing how loud the snap was. The athletic trainer was called via hand-held radio and replied that she couldn't leave the sidelines because she had to keep an eye on a player with a possible wrist sprain. She never showed to the scene. The way I see it, high school athletics is high school athletics. She went against her ethics.

Finally, the fire department arrived from just the other side of the stadium some 10 minutes later with nothing but an aid bag. They also went to find an off-duty paramedic in the stands that was observing the game to come to her aid. Mind you, she fell from approximately 10 feet high, upper body first. There was still one girl holding one foot all the way down. The possibility of neck or back injury was very great. There was no backboard or collar.

We were anxiously waiting for the ambulance to show. Our daughter could not move. She had to hold the broken arm across her chest with the other arm. We waited and waited, only to find out that an ambulance was never called and approximately 30 minutes had elapsed from time of injury. We were then instructed to get her to our vehicle in the parking lot and take her to Kingman Regional Medical Center ER. We advised them that we were afraid to move her and did not think she could walk. They advised us that it would be at least 20 more minutes if we waited for an ambulance. We then asked the fire department personnel to help us get her off the ground with the least resistance and to our vehicle. They just stood and watched my wife and I and never left the location of the injury.

Our daughter was put into a splint with complete fractures of both bones in her forearm. She had surgery and now has two plates and 12 screws in her arm. She will always have problems with her arm. Yes, she is back in the air. She's got real guts and determination for what she loves. We try to be involved as much as possible, but we are not allowed to attend any practices.

The deal is, if safety procedures had been followed, this would not have happened. There were many errors leading up to this so-called "freak accident" per Principal Mickelson.

First, we tried to speak with Mr. Flores, the school district superintendent, since we had issues with management and how the situation was handled. His staff refused to make an appointment and told us we had to take this up with the high school. His secretary said that he does not meet with parents about school issues. We thought the superintendent of schools was a public servant.

We have been to speak with Mr. Casson and Mrs. Mickleson expressing our concerns to avoid a more serious injury in the future. We were told it would be worked on. During our meeting, we advised them of the safety rules of high school cheerleading. He asked where we got a copy of these rules and where he could get them. The Internet, of course. Our high school athletic director does not know the safety rules and does not know if they are being followed, as he does not attend practices, so it is ultimately up to the coach.

In every facet of business and industry, management personnel are required to know and understand safety policies and guidelines. Why is Kingman High School any different, considering they are responsible for the safety and welfare of hundreds of children?

We have also contacted the athletic director of NCA for high school cheerleading, Jim Lord. He has told us that if safety rules are being followed, there are no accidents of this type, period. Breaks are not accidents. At the most there are only strains and sprains. He then advised that he could send a representative of the NCA to follow up on this incident and work with the athletics director and cheerleading staff to avoid any further incidents. We advised Mr. Casson and that was declined. Why? We don't know. It is free and can only better the safety of our children and avoid life-long injury or even death.

For those that are not aware, Kingman High School cheerleading is not considered a sport, instead it is a club. A few weeks ago the football players' air-conditioning on the bus broke. The girls were already loaded and Mr. Casson advised the girls to transfer to the bus with no air-conditioning. It was very warm at that time in Phoenix, and the football players were able to shower after the game.

We are all for sports in high school, but guidelines must be followed. Some of these sports can be risky. Parents are aware; we have to sign all kinds of documents before our children can participate. Therefore, the school needs do their part and acquire the resources to protect the lives of our children. It's time to demand better. In some cases, just minutes can mean life or death.

Tom and Teresa Finton