Cheerleaders demand reason: why is sideline cheer not allowed?

There is confusion over new state guidance that prohibits sideline cheer, band and drumline at outdoor youth sporting events with no explanation given.

It was guidance updated this week by the state public health department regarding youth sports. It comes at a time when it appears every other outdoor sport for youngsters is allowed but not cheer.

The cheer team at Sobrato High in Morgan Hill is still cheering despite the rain and despite finding out they can’t perform at games. They found out just as the football team has its first game of a shortened season.

"I think it really stinks for us because we wish we were going with them," said Varsity Cheer Captain Ashley Bell.

"They’re deflated," said Janelle Bell, Ashley’s mother. "They got their hopes up. They returned to practice. Their spirits were lifted after a long year."

Why they can’t cheer at games to them is baffling. On Wednesday, the California Interscholastic Federation notified 150 schools from San Francisco to Gilroy of new guidelines from state public health.

In an updated "Youth Sports Q&A" one question asks: will sideline cheer, band, drumline or other supporting groups be allowed to attend sporting events? Simply put, the answer is it’s not allowed.

"We just want to know why," said Janelle Bell. "Why are the cheerleaders being excluded?"

"It would be okay if they said the reason why is because you are yelling, but they haven’t given us that, they have given us nothing," said Ashley Bell.

The federation’s central coast commissioner said it is out of his hands.

"We have no control over this," said Central Coast Section Commissioner David Grissom. "This is the department of public health setting this guideline."

It’s upsetting because just last week cheerleading was allowed. Cheerleaders were seen at the sidelines in Oakley last Friday night.

"When we cheer we are six feet apart and wear masks," said Cheerleader Kayleigh Shuman. "It’s just frustrating to see other sports that have closer contact."

What is adding to the confusion is on the state public health web site, it also said in the red tier that cheerleading is permitted.

"I do not understand the reasoning," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF Infectious Disease Expert. "This can lead to an erosion of trust, either you want to give a good reason, a study we don't know about."

"Perhaps they didn’t consider cheer a sport but cheer is going to the Olympics," said Janelle Bell.

KTVU reached out to several people at the state health department, but did not hear back. It is up to each individual school if they decide to follow the guidance. Campaigns are sprouting up calling for signatures demanding equal rights.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or