High school majorette Peggy Ward, 16, got to twirl her baton after all last night, having convinced school officials that by a doctor's standards she was not overweight.
Ward, a junior at Ringgold High School in Monongahela, Pa., is 5 feet 4 inches tall, and currently weighs 128 pounds.
Her band instructor had forbidden her to march with her fellow majorettes this year until she reduced to 126 pounds, citing "catcalls" from the grandstands during the previous year's football games.
Three hours before the game against nearby Aliquippa High School was to begin last night, Peggy and her mother arrived at the office of school principal John Esaias. They had just been to a specialist, and handed him a letter saying that Peggy's ideal weight range was 128 to 132 pounds.
"That was all we asked for," Esaias said. "The figure of 126 pounds had been taken from a weight chart showing normal for her height and age, but this was from a doctor."
Herbert G. Ward, Peggy's father, reportedly will press a complaint, filed Thursday with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Pittsburgh, charging his daughter was being "discriminated against because of her sex and handicap -- being overweight."
Ward is one of 17 majorettes and 23 drill-team members -- all of them girls -- who march in support of the Ringgold High football team. But last year, band instructor Joseph Cersosimo told his charges to shape up over the summer, so as to prevent name-calling from the sidelines.
"Peggy went on a diet and lost 11 1/2 pounds," her sister Terry, 27, said yesterday. "Some of the other girls were on the borderline, but she was the only one who didn't make it. She hasn't been eating much of anything. She's really run down and depressed."
According to Esaias, Ward had been told to lose two pounds a week, or not march. She marched on probation two weeks ago at 130 pounds, but last week was benched when she missed her goal. At that point publicity for her plight began to grow, and opinion on the wisdom of setting students' weights was revealed as divided in Monongahela.
"It's making us look like we're a bunch of knotheads here," school board member George Buell told the Associated Press yesterday. School superintendent James Lopresti said his district did not plan to yield to a public debate, but added that "it's true the pressure could get such that there are some changes."
Esaias, after accepting the letter from Peggy Ward's doctor yesterday, said, "When you set standards and rules you have to follow them. I know two pounds is close, but where do you draw the line?"
Asked if the school was attempting to set esthetic standards, Esaias said, "Yes, we are trying to prevent the girls getting catcalls and lewd remarks when they march. No, we are not trying to have a beauty contest."
Weight requirements for majorettes and drill-team members will continue in force at the high school, he said.