Pom Pom Mafia
Columbine cheerleaders aim to raise teen spirit

Iwas sitting in my gynecologist's office the other day when I spied a copy of August's American Cheerleader magazine. I scanned the room for other patrons, feeling somehow embarrassed by my wanting to read it. I was alone, so I slid the superglossy publication onto my lap. The three cheerleaders on the cover didn't hold my attention until I read the accompanying text: "Rebuilding at Columbine: How the Cheer and Pom Squad Will Renew School Spirit." What?

See also...
... by Whorella
... in the Scope section
... from September 21, 1999

A very pregnant teenager came in the room and startled me -- but not enough to keep me from reading on. I had to know how the Rebel cheerleaders were going to restore the old Columbine spirit after two students killed 13 and injured 23 people during an April 20 shooting spree.

During my breast exam, I was obsessed with those three faces. Even with my knees spread wide, I kept wondering if they were the cheerleaders who, Columbine students said, teamed up with jocks to torment the soon-to-be-gunmen for their unconventional attire and lifestyle. And as my doctor removed the speculum and inserted her cold, rubbery hand into me, I suddenly felt guilty for thinking cheerleaders were evil. I decided to read the story with an open mind.

The story, titled "Rebels with a Cause," was written by American Cheerleader editor Julie Davis. She writes: "Most cheerleaders know the sadness of a losing season, the frustration of an under-funded program, the difficulty of losing a respected coach -- coping is part of your responsibilities. But Columbine's spirit leaders...will face greater challenges."

Yeah no shit, everyone hates them now. But the Pom Pom Mafia has a plan. Because the massacre is a commonly-accepted symbol of teen isolation, there's a special message from Davis about a new awareness program being launched in partnership with AC's sister publications Dance Spirit and Dance Teacher. "Teens Protecting Teens" is about breaking down cliques and creating an atmosphere of acceptance.

There's a sidebar that features a winning essay about how cheerleaders can make a difference. "Cheerleaders, unfortunately, are often one of [the] groups watched by everyone in the school ... what if we were the ones to ask someone how they are, even if they aren't exactly our friend? If other people see us do that, will they do it, too? Maybe. Maybe by saying 'hi' or 'how are you?' we can save lives...We can stop one person from killing ten. We can change the world."

Maybe. And maybe the next kids who go on a rampage will do the right thing and confine their slaughter specifically to cheerleaders.

Okay, right, cheerleaders can't possibly be that evil. At least they're trying to do something. But cheerleaders don't understand that jumping around in short skirts is not an act of charity. Flashing that evil smile, "Look how great I am for acknowledging you," is not an act of "bonding."

Expecting to renew school spirit just months after the disaster is a sweet and hideous exercise in oversimplification. If we have more pep rallies, life will be normal again. Why not? On August 23, these girls looked none the worse for the massacre as they led the historic and nationally televised "Take Back Our School" rally.

I'm not even going to try to defend cheerleaders. Everyone who went to high school in America -- and wasn't one of them -- knows how they are.

After my second pap smear and pelvic exam and comments about my backwards uterus all jumbled with this cheerleading business, I just wanted to get dressed and get back in my car where I could blast tunes and shake it all off.

But first, I lied my way into a year's supply of birth control pills. How could I subject another human being to life knowing he or she would have to attend high school?

Whorella dreamed of being a topless dancer so she could date rock stars but settled for being a confessional journalist so she could date sadistic intellectuals.