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Parents Challenge Weight Restriction For Pa. Majorette

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The parents of a 16-year-old Pennsylvania girl who was ordered by school officials to lose weight or forfeit marching as a drum majorette with the school band have complained to the state's human-relations commission in Pittsburgh.

Mr. and Mrs. Herbert G. Ward say that the weight restriction applied to their daughter, Peggy, who is a student at Ringgold High School in Monongahela, Pa., is discriminatory because there are no similar restrictions for boys and because her weight is medically "normal." They have asked that the policy be abolished.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is an independent state agency that investigates claims of discrimination. A hearing was scheduled before the commission late last week.

Ms. Ward's weight averages about 130 pounds, her mother said. Her high-school band instructor, Joseph Cersosimo, had ordered her to reduce to 126 pounds or be benched.

Prior to a game on Friday, Oct. 1, for which Ms. Ward had not made the weight limit, an internist consulted by the family told Ms. Ward she had a liver disorder called Gilbert's Syndrome.

Ms. Ward had been dieting and taking diuretics to try to lose weight, but the doctor said the dieting would aggravate her condition, and he recommended that she not reduce her weight to less than 128 pounds.

The Wards presented a note to this effect to school officials, and Ms. Ward was allowed to March in Friday's game, "But Mr. Cersosimo said that if she goes back to 133, she sits," Mrs. Ward said.

The band director imposed the restrictions for the first time last May, citing catcalls from the stands about the weight of some of the girls. Several girls who were overweight lost weight over the summer. Besides Ms. Ward, one other girl--who subsequently quit--did not lose enough.

Ms. Ward stayed involved, but was not allowed to march in the first two games.

Ms. Ward's mother said the experience has been traumatic for her daughter. "A few of the girls have harrassed her. I tell her, Peggy, you've got to have a little thick skin right now."

George P. Buell, a Ringgold school board member who lost (by a vote of 5 to 4) an attempt to abolish the weight restrictions, said, "I'm afraid of the regulation in respect to the health of these kids. These girls want to be majorettes, and if a music teacher tells the girls on Monday to lose six pounds by Wednesday, they'll try to do it."--ah

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