Students with disabilities may face a more significant risk of bullying than their non-disabled peers. To protect them from being a target of bullying, peer advocacy—students speaking out on behalf of the bullied person—can be a powerful approach.
That’s precisely what three middle school basketball players, Miles Rodriguez, Chase Vasquez, and Scooter Terrien, did when they heard fans in the stands bullying one of their cheerleaders who has Down syndrome—Desiree Andrews.
According to Kenosha News, Desiree, a cheerleader at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, became interested in cheerleading after watching the TV series Glee.
“[The show has] a character with Down syndrome who is a cheerleader,” Desiree’s dad, Cliff Andrews, said in 2015. “And she said, ‘If she can be a cheerleader, I can be a cheerleader.’”
Most students don’t like to see bullying. Seeing the bullies giving Desiree a hard time, Rodriguez, Vasquez, and Terrien were mad.
“It’s not fair when other people get treated wrong, because we’re all the same. We’re all created the same,” Terrien said to TMJ4.
The big-hearted eighth-graders decided to not just let it slide. Instead, they walked off the court and confronted her tormentors.
“We walked off the court and went to the bullies and told them to stop because that’s not right to be mean to another person,” Rodriguez told Fox & Friends.
Brandon Morris, the boys’ seventh-grade coach at Lincoln Middle School, told Kenosha News: “One of the kids stepped up and said, ‘Don’t mess with her.’”
The boys took things a step further. “We asked our sports director to talk to the people and tell them not to make fun of her,” Rodriguez said.
After that, the three boys often walked with Desiree to class.
“They have really stepped up, almost like they are big brothers to her,” coach David Tolefree said. “It’s good to see.”
Scooter Terrien, Chase Vazquez, Miles Rodriguez, Desiree Andrews and Cliff Andrews
Rodriguez, Vasquez, and Terrien then got the word out and organized for Desiree some serious backup.
The boys inspired a new name for the gymnasium where they play basketball: “D’s House,”—”D” for Desiree. A banner was drafted up, and that has now become the official name of the gym. Even sweeter, the team began a pre-game tradition of running over to Desiree to give her high fives and fist bumps, People reported.
“Standing up, being a true team, not only a basketball team, but a team of people that are going to support somebody,” Timothy Nieman, one of the team’s players, said.
Cheerleader coach and teacher Laura Stone believes with Desiree on the team, she has helped her students grow. “She has been very special to us,” Stone said.
“Whose house? D's house!”A Wisconsin basketball team spoke out on Fox & Friends this morning about renaming their school gym in honor of Desiree Andrews, a cheerleader with Down syndrome.
Talking to Fox & Friends, the athletic director, Tim Nieman, said he was proud of the boys for standing up for Desiree. “It truly does take a village to do great things,” he added.
Needless to say, Desiree was moved by what Rodriguez, Vasquez, and Terrien did. She lauded their gesture as “sweet, kind, awesome, amazing” in a video on TMJ4 news.
Her dad was grateful too. He said to Kenosha News: “Those boys, I tried to talk to them in person, but I couldn’t keep the tears back.”
Watch the video: