Cheerleader with special needs left out of yearbook, mom says

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 2:40 AM CDT

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. (WRAL) - A North Carolina high school is facing claims of discrimination after the mother of a student with special needs says her daughter was excluded from the yearbook’s cheerleading squad photo.

Nancy Norris knew high school wouldn’t be a smooth ride for her daughter, Abby Norris. The 16-year-old lives with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as “brittle bone disease.”

“We’ve had a rocky road with inclusion on a lot of things,” Nancy Norris said.

Abby Norris, 16, is a cheerleader at Clayton High School. She lives with a condition called...
Abby Norris, 16, is a cheerleader at Clayton High School. She lives with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that may cause a person's bones to fracture easily and/or form abnormally.(Source: Family photo, WRAL via CNN)

People with the congenital genetic disorder may have bones that fracture easily and/or bones that form abnormally, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“My bones are very fragile,” Abby Norris said.

Still, the teen’s spirit shines brightly under the Friday night lights as a cheerleader at Clayton High School. She is allowed to participate in activities at her base school while she attends virtual academy.

But spirits turned sour when Nancy Norris says her daughter was left out of a cheerleading squad picture in the high school’s yearbook. She says she provided photos of Abby Norris and the team, but they were not the ones used in the yearbook.

She says the mistake never should have happened.

“One group picture is of everyone except for Abby with every individual cheerleader listed, so whoever turned this in had to have had knowledge of every cheerleader’s name,” Nancy Norris said.

Abby Norris says the yearbook omission was “very discouraging.”

“It was really heartbreaking for me,” she said.

Nancy Norris says the person in charge of the yearbook has since apologized and promised to do something special for her daughter next year, with her own page in the yearbook. The mother just hopes this doesn’t happen again to someone else.

“I’m hoping we can prevent this. I know it’s going to happen more, but I hope we can cut back on it and do more inclusion,” she said.

After the incident, Abby Norris has seen an outpouring of support from the community and from those who have seen her story online. She’s already looking forward to participating as a cheerleader next year.

Johnston County Public Schools said in a statement it could not comment on any specific issue due to confidentiality but noted that it responds to and investigates all concerns brought forward in the district.

“We listen and respond appropriately to all concerns brought forth by our families, students and staff. We investigate all concerns brought to our attention and handle them swiftly and as the circumstances warrant,” read the statement in part.