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Rockwood parents concerned after student with special needs cut from cheerleading squad

“For her to be rejected and not included really brought disappointment,” Rick Battelle said.

FENTON, Mo. — Parents of a student with special needs say their school district isn't doing enough to make their daughter feel included.

If you spend more than a few minutes around Ava Battelle, it’s easy to see that she’s a star.

“She’s incredible,” said her father, Rick Battelle. “She’s not only beautiful, but she very much wants to be part of a community.”

“When she walks into a room, she is the light of the room,” said her mother, Tara Frisella. “She likes to be noticed.”

With her personality traits it’s easy to see why Ava loves cheerleading, which she has competed in since she was 7.

“Cheerleading is good for me,” said Ava Battelle. “I’m passionate, and I love to be a flyer.”

“I think it gives her even more confidence when she’s out there performing for people because she just loves it,” said Frisella.

However, when the Rockwood Summit High School junior tried out for the school cheer squad her parents said she was cut because she couldn’t do a backhand spring.

“I feel sad,” said Ava Battelle.

“For her to be rejected and not included really brought disappointment,” said Rick Battelle.

“We take our responsibility seriously to ensure that individuals with disabilities aren’t excluded from activities based solely on their disability,” said Rockwood Special Education Coordinator Jamie Smith.

Smith told 5 On Your Side that all district schools have created a Sparkle program that offers students dealing with disabilities the opportunities to cheer.

“We do offer accommodations,” said Smith. “We’re working to improve that process.”

“The law is that it has to be a comparable program,” said Frisella. “It was not comparable at all. It wasn’t an equal program by any means.”

As Rockwood revisits its policies, Ava is holding out hope that allows her a shot to make varsity cheer her senior year.

“I want to make them happy, and love me, all of the fans care about me,” said Ava Battelle. “I want to be like ‘Let’s go Summit!'”

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