Lauren Bush, a freshman at Blythewood High School, has turned the tide in her favor by competing as a cheerleader in a wheelchair after being denied.
Despite being diagnosed with Type 3 osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare bone disease that has forced her to use a wheelchair, Bush was thrilled when she auditioned for and was accepted onto the high school’s competitive cheer team.
Bush told WISTV, “The tryout packets had come out and I was always against cheering and I was like no I don’t wanna cheer. I wanna dance but my friend was on the cheer team in seventh grade and she was like you should try out and it’ll be fun. So I tried out but then when tryouts started, I got more into it and I made the team so I was like ‘ohh ok’.”
However, a month before the school’s first competition, the coach told her mother that she would not be able to compete. Demetra Bush met with coaches and administrators from the high school to find out why. She was told that it was because Bush was in a wheelchair and that it posed a safety risk in competitions.
“I was so offended and I literally told them, do you hear what you all just told me,” said Demetra Bush. The distraught mother then took the issue to Facebook, where her post about Bush being told she would not be able to compete went viral, prompting school administrators to reverse their decision.
The officials from the South Carolina High School League told WISTV that according to their policy, “Students with disabilities are not prohibited from participation as long as it doesn’t pose a safety risk to the individual or others.”
Richland School District Two stated that they investigated the situation as soon as it was brought to their attention and that it was quickly rectified.
Bush was finally able to compete in the tournament, which was held at Spring Valley High School when the decision was reversed. Her mother highlighted the value of diversity, inclusivity, and equality, which helped Bush gain popular support.
“This whole situation is bigger than just Lauren. I’ve explained that to Lauren before I sent out any information before I sent out any post to get the public’s backing because I knew that this is bigger than just us. It’s time for a change and we’re in the 21st century,” Demetra Bush shared.
Bush said to others who may be facing the same challenges, “Just don’t listen to people and do what you want to do. If you want to do it, then do it… Go for it. Because at the end of the day, they’re not you, and you’re like your own person. It doesn’t matter what people say for real. Just do what you want to do.”
The Blythewood Bengals finished first in the 5-A division at the end of the competition.