Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The other side of the Kennedy Tesch controversy - a Madison Heights Wolverine speaks

Last Friday, I posted an item entitled Kennedy Tesch escapes organizational chaos in the Madison Heights, Michigan cheerleading squad? The reason that I referred to "organizational chaos" is because of the multiple stories that were reported to Kennedy's mother, Jennifer Tesch, regarding objections to a cheer that the Madison Heights Wolverines cheerleading squad was performing. For those who didn't hear, this is the cheer that the mother of the 6 year old Tesch objected to:

"Our backs ache, our skirts are too tight, we shake our booties from left to right."

The mother went to the media, the cheerleading organization kicked the family out of the program, the coach referred to the mother as a "lunatic," and the coach was suspended.

This post received several comments, including one from Allison:

Are you kidding? If my kid was in that organization, I'd yank her out immediately and head for a more positive environment. What a snakepit!

I replied:

The strange part is that the decision to remove the Tesch family was reportedly unanimous. I don't know if that means unanimous from the board, or unanimous from the parents also. Or perhaps the board were the only parents that showed up that night. Or if a truly cross-representative group of parents agreed with this, then it's a snakepit with groupthink. (Or, alternatively, we haven't heard the whole story about the Tesch family.)

This elicited a reply from someone called "proud wolverine,", which I will reprint here in full:


The reporting on this was biased and most of it is based on lies or in the words of Roger Clemens things have been misremembered. Here are the facts:

1. Jennifer raised objections to the cheer. The GM and President said this was the only complaint ever raised about the cheer and it would remain until the next scheduled board meeting.

2. Mrs. Tesch didn't like the answer. She made everyone aware of that. I guess she felt it was an emergency that couldn't wait. She secretly recorded the girls and provided it to the media which aired it the Friday before Labor Day. The girls faces wern't blurred out as is standard prtocol with minor children. The parents of the girls were outraged. The Tesch's brought several relatives to the next practice who threatened the coach. The media also showed up. We were told by the league not to comment and asked the media to leave. It was so bad that practice had to be cancelled.

All the parents from the flag cheer team voted on the cheer. If one parent would have voted to have it removed the cheer would have been discontinued. None of them did and the cheer was retained.

The Board meets and removes the Tesch family unaniously. This is a no brainer. Every parent signs a parental responsibility statement and Mrs. Tesch violated most of it by her behavior. It wasn't a lynch mob. A simple presentation of the facts.

Mrs Tesch then began a smear campaign on radio stations who were biased in every way. You know every story needs a victim a vilain and a hero. They decided that we were the vilain and that our organization that has been doing this cheer for decades was intentionally parading our daughters around like tramps. They said there were sexual conotations to it. Mrs. Tesch (the victim) was obviously the only level headed person in the city, and the media of course was there to protect the kids from our perverse program.

4.Lisa Ernest (coach) who has a heart of gold if you knew her, went on a radio show and had a heated debate with the hosts and Mrs Tesch. Certainly Lisa let her emotions get the best of her. While she may not have a dynamic way of orally expressing herself she is a great person. She was suspended for violationg the no media order from the league. The poor girl while trying to defend this program was made a fool of by the hosts of the show. She was so distraught that their entire family went away for the weekend and missed Saturday's game. (I know, no sympathy for the vilain in the snakepit)

Then Mrs Tesch went on her national media campaign.

This whole thing was emotionally taxing for all of us John. Surely the easiest thing to dowas get rid of the cheer. I don't beleive it is that simple. No organization, regardless of intention, can please everyone. What other cheers might she object to, or anyone else for that matter? These girls work so hard at this. Cheerleading will always have a stigma attached to it. That is a reality that none of us can deny. There is a whole sector of activists out there that beleive that cheerleading is demeaning to women. So is it the cheer or cheerleading that people are offended by? All that I can say is that we love our kids and feel completely comfortable with this cheer. I could do with or without it. I am proud to be a Wolverine and am appalled at some of the comments that have been made. Excuse us if we are slightly defensive. Our lives shut down for five months every year to provide a great environment for the children of Madison Heights. I wish someone would ask these kids about this cheer or our program. A lot can be learned from them. You would find that they think that those that are upposed to this cheer are very insecure and childish. We did kind of track the oppinions of folks in between tears. It's about 50/50. We can live with that. On a positive note. Wolverine pride has never been stronger. This has become a rallying cry for us. Two of our squads will probably make the super bowl. I hope that some of you will come to a game and see for yourselves before casting your next stone. These kids are great and truly above this contraversy. Go Blue.

Proud Wolverine also left another comment at the post:

I can't remember a story where facts are ignored, and the media just says whatever they want to. The Madison Heights Wolverines is a proud organization and has been active in this commun ity for decades. Like any organization we have a system of redress. Yes, Jennifer did not like the cheer, voiced her concerns, and it was going to be discussed at the next board meeting. Instead of talking to other parents and gaining their support she chose to secretly film the team and began this media frenzy based on lies, and a twisting of the facts. The board didn't even get a chance to address it. She could have had Kennedy sit out that cheer until the matter was resolved. The fact is that the Tesch family violated team rules (not for going to the media) by disrupting practices, making threats, and exploiting the young girls on the team. I feel terrible for Kennedy as her parents took a trivial issue and used it as an excuse to behave badly in a childish attempt to get their way at all costs. The Wolverines will continue to instill pride, generosity, and discipline in our young people. There is a waiting list to get on all of our squads. This cheer dispute has only made our organization stronger and more unified. We will use your comments to demonstrate to these children how sic and cruel people can be while trying to force there twisted moral code on everyone else. Thankfully we live in a country where your approval is not required. You raise your children and we will raise ours. We are very saddened by what Kennedy has gone through as no child should have to endure that. Her mother and the media are responsible for all of it.

After reading proud's comments, I have two of my own.

First, if Jennifer Tesch acted irresponsibly in filming the girls without obscuring their faces, what of the media organizations themselves who allegedly aired the video unedited? (Hulu's video of the NBC report obscures all but Kennedy Tesch.) This is probably a good question for Thomas Hawk, or for any of you who know the ins and outs of photography law and practice.

Second, I should note that I am not a fan of the gag order that was imposed by the cheerleading organization. But I have to admit that such gag orders are commonplace all over. Most if not all of us are under all sorts of self-imposed gag orders all the time. And if you think that the Madison Heights Wolverines' request to not speak about the controversy is a terrible black eye for sports, ask Mark Cuban and Steve Kerr what they think about LeBron James. Yup, if the Wolverines are imposing gag orders, it's just preparing the girls for later life.

However, Pam Martens objects to the Wolverines' actions:

Jennifer Tesch, mother of six year old Kennedy Tesch, learned that her child was being asked to recite the following chant as a cheerleader for the Wolverines cheering squad, a group that includes five and six year old girls: "Our backs ache, our skirts are too tight, we shake our booties from left to right." She immediately took her complaints over the suggestive chant up the ladder of the Wolverines management. When she was told the chant would stay, she went to the media. Within days, she was publicly humiliated on local radio by the cheerleading coach and young Kennedy was summarily kicked out of the squad.

The primary complaint was that Kennedy’s mom broke a cardinal rule of both small town despots, exalted religious leaders preying on children, and financial crime syndicates: what happens “in the family” stays “in the family.”

But Martens then compares the Wolverines to...well, to Goldman Sachs:

During the same week, in lower Manhattan, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which regularly rubber stamps dubious class action settlements for the same serially corrupt Wall Street miscreants, docketed in a complaint from three former Goldman Sachs women: Cristina Chen-Oster, Lisa Parisi and Shanna Orlich. The women allege what is universally accepted by any sighted individual who has ever walked inside a Wall Street firm and observed secretarial desks lined up in the hallways with women, while plush, glass paneled private offices are inhabited by men of a fair complexion. That is, the women allege that Goldman Sachs rung every ounce of talent and production out of them, then failed to pay or promote them on a par with their male counterparts.

And, of course, as so many women before them have documented, if they were too talented or too ambitious, they had to be stripped of their dignity and put in their place via the sexual harassment/assault enforcement squad.

As far as Martens is concerned, THAT is the lesson that the Wolverine girls are learning for later life. Although that may be a bit of a stretch.
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