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NORMAL - The Normal Community West High School pom squad has no dancers.

They all resigned last month, citing what parents called "verbal abuse" by the coach, Rebecca Franks.

They acknowledged Franks was trying to improve the team, but her methods became too much.

"We couldn't work as a team," said 18-year-old StephanieWoody, a captain of the squad.

Unit 5 Superintendent Alan Chapman said the team still exists, but team members and parents say all 15 dancers have quit.

Franks declined to comment, referring all questions to Principal Tom Eder, who also declined comment.

"We are certainly working on the situation," Superintendent Alan Chapman said. "We have discussed the concerns and are responding to the individuals."

The school called a practice for the squad at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but none of the girls attended. At that time Woody and her friend and co-captain, Ashley Meiner, 18, met at the Woody's house to talk about where things stood.

"It's been going on a couple of years," Woody said of the squad's difficulty with the coach.

The breaking point for students came at a Jan. 14 practice in which Franks yelled at the students, threatened to quit and told the students to leave the school, said Mitzi Woody, Stephanie Woody's mother and a teacher at Fairview Elementary School.

After being kicked out that January day, the girls, many of whom had no rides home, went to Woody's home in tears. "They were traumatized and crying," said Mitzi Woody.

Mitzi Woody previously would tell her daughter to "suck it up," but her attitude changed when the dancers showed up on her doorstep in tears.

"They said, 'We can't go back in a room with her.' That's when I knew what damage had been done," Mitzi Woody said.

Stephanie Woody and Meiner said they didn't want to hurt their coach, but they couldn't work with her anymore because of the things she shouted at them. The squad members quit on Jan. 16.

The squad placed fourth at the state finals in 2003 and continued to improve, Stephanie Woody said, showing a photo of the smiling winners.

"She (Franks) wanted us to be the best we could be," said Stephanie Woody.

Leaving the team was tough for Stephanie Woody, who has been accepted by the University of Kentucky. The university's dance team recently placed first in the nation.

"I love to dance. It's something I want to pursue," she said, adding she has been on Normal West's squad since her freshman year and has danced since she was 5 years old.

The team will miss the three remaining basketball games and at least two competitions.

Their departure also forced the cancellation - with almost no notice - of the Jan. 17 Junior Squad Clinic for girls as young as age 4. The dancers said it hurts to "let the little girls down."

Among those backing the squad is Nick Hozian, the stepfather of Kayla Hall, 15, a sophomore in her first year of the squad.

"When the whole team walks out, there is a problem," he said.

Franks' decision to end practice 1½ hours early when some of the students had no way home puzzled Hozian.

"That's endangerment and not good judgment," he said, adding "I have nothing against the coach. The woman seems to be on a roller coaster."

Parents met with the superintendent, but they couldn't find an acceptable resolution.

Administrators did offer to attend practices with the coach and team. "That showed us they cared about us," Meiner said.


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