PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — If there’s one thing a group of thirteen girls from I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth learned from their beloved cheerleading coach it’s this: “To never give up. and fight for what we want. So that’s what we’re doing right now,” Ashley Williams told WAVY.com.
The girls are speaking out in defense of their former cheerleading coach and teacher, Amy Strickland. Strickland, now an assistant principal at Booker. T Washington High School in Norfolk, made headlines this week when she re-tweeted a Twitter post that some students at Booker T. felt was racist.
But, that’s not how the girls who learned from Strickland for years saw the re-tweet. They said they were surprised when students at Booker T. Washington walked out of class Monday, demanding school administrators hold Strickland accountable for her social media post.
“I couldn’t comprehend what was going on, because I was wondering, how could Amy Strickland be a racist when she had just come from being with us and never showed any signs of racism or discrimination or anything else?” said student and cheerleader Unique Knox.
They call Strickland a mentor, a friend. The group demonstrated Friday afternoon in Norfolk with signs that read “Justice For Strickland.”
“She is very kind, funny, goofy, nice loving and caring,” Williams told WAVY.com.
The girls say they are standing up for Strickland because she taught them to fight for what they believe in.
“We also are doing this because we know if it was something with us, she would go to bat. She would lose her job for us, and we would do the same,” Briana Vaughn told WAVY.com.
The girls say Strickland also taught them about courage, and believing in themselves. Now, through a re-tweet, she has taught them another invaluable lesson.
“We’ve learned a lot from this,” said student and cheerleader Teauna Simmons. “You just don’t know who’s looking at what nowadays, so you just have to be very careful about what you put up there,” she said.
The girls have this message for the assistant principal now on administrative leave: “I would just tell her that I love her, and it will pass over eventually. We have her back, and we love her dearly,” said Ciara Bullock.
Strickland released a statement Thursday that explains she’s currently on administrative leave. She apologized for the tweet, and said she re-tweeted it in jest. You can read the full statement at this link: https://lintvwavy.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/amy-strickland-response.pdf
Also Friday, the NAACP released a statement calling for sensitivity training in the Norfolk Public School system.
Norfolk Public Schools responded to the NAACP statement in an email that said,
“Norfolk Public Schools has worked with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center for about three years, and that work includes training and support for administrators and staff on cultural responsiveness. Culturally responsive behaviors and training also are major themes of the districtwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports initiative, which emphasizes positive relationships among students and staff leading to positive behaviors. Our five-year Strategic Plan also includes action plans designed to expand cultural sensitivity training opportunities and culturally responsive behaviors in Norfolk Public Schools. Strategy #5 calls on us to nurture a culture of excellence, equity and justice through continuous improvement, and the first “big idea” under that strategy is cultural proficiency.”