...but the good news is the little girl is still cheering despite the events swirling around her. Last weekend she earned her way onto an all star community cheerleading squad.
The mother of third grader Joanna Petosa says her daughter loves cheerleading and can do the cheers with precision. Nevertheless, she says that St. Christopher's cheerleading coach told her that her daughter is being removed from the squad because she would drag down the other kids.
Sally Petosa says the issue is her daughter's autism. According to her, last year the parents of the team members said they were concerned about Joanna keeping up, so Sally permitted her daughter to be placed on a younger squad and was told this year her daughter would rejoin the group of her own age. Sally gave them a $60 deposit, but was told by the coach that Joanna, who is an A student, could not be on the team this year because "they had come to the conclusion that she didn't have the mental capacity to do the stunts."
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York denies that "the coach called out Joanna's diagnosis". Her explanation is that Joanna didn't make it onto a new competitive team, but could cheer at basketball games with five other girls who also didn't make the team.
However, Sally Petosa says that last weekend Joanna tried out for an all stars cheerleading team called Island Xplosion and made the squad. James DeFranco, the coach of Island Xplosion said that "[Joanna] got on the floor and stretched with the other girls and did all the tumbles, cartwheels and roundoffs. She even learned a whole routine and a jump sequence, while she was here. She did anything any other girl did. She was even quicker than some of them."
Parish officials are referring all questions to the Archdiocese. The director of Staten Island Catholic Charities says he "was angered that St. Christopher's wouldn't give Joanna a chance".
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