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High school cheerleaders claim coach called them out by skin color instead of names

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SACRAMENTO (KTXL) -- The sport of cheerleading has brought a ton of excitement into the life of All-American Eryka Davis.

"I called my mom and was like...'Mom guess what? I'm going to London!'"

Right now she's gearing up to represent Sacramento's McClatchy High School in the U.K.

But for the first time in years of clapping and stunting, she says it's another kind of stunt that's left her saddened about the state of cheerleading at her school.

"The coach actually, you know, yelled at us and said, 'three little black girls go sit down,'" said the JV cheerleader.

That happened on Oct.3 when Coach Joakima Gregg was trying to regain control of a practice that had become a chat session.

Jonai Hunter says the entire team was talking in small groups, but only she, Eryka and their friend Tori Belton were told to quiet down.

"That's why we were offended more 'cause she pointed us three out, and the whole squad was talking," said Hunter.

"I felt embarrassed. We all felt embarrassed, actually. We all were like what ... what just happened?" recalled Davis.

"It made me feel like offended...highly offended. I felt it was very uncalled for," said Belton.

While some African-Americans choose to call one another the n-word and aren't offended by it, the girls and their mothers believe calling someone out by color is wrong.

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HS cheerleaders claim coach called them out by skin color instead of names
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"I don't care what color you are. You have no right to speak to children that way," said Keysha Davis, Eryka's mother.

The girls and their parents also say the coach's behavior set an ugly precedent for other members of the team who started calling the girls out by their skin tones and not their names.

"What's up light-skins and duh-duh-duh...and she thought it was OK because the coach said that to us the day before," said Belton.

"To see their emotions and see their tears, and when their feelings are hurt, our feelings are hurt," said her mother Wendy.

The cheerleaders and their families also feel hurt by the school's response to what Principal Peter Lambert has called a "poor choice of words."

They requested a public apology from Gregg in front of the JV and varsity teams with themselves and administrators present, but claim instead there were vague individual apologies and only a vague mention to the teams.

"She was supposed to notify the girls that it was not OK to refer to us by our race and she never did that," said Hunter.

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"I've cheered since I was 4 years old, off and on, but now it just killed my whole spirit, my whole vibe," confessed Tori Belton.

"I don't want to cheer again. This is not something I look forward to for the rest of my two years at McClatchy."

FOX40 asked repeatedly for the principal, the assistant principal or the coach to speak about this situation on camera.

They refused.

Coach Gregg did offer this statement:

"I sincerely regret my poor choice of words and I have apologized both individually to students and parents. I am willing to work with the parents and students to apologize further and I look forward to putting this incident behind us and moving on as a team."

Assistant Principal Dobrescu told FOX40 in writing:

"We do not tolerate such language in any possible way. We're looking at addressing it. We are addressing it. We think the situation is under control and we want to move forward."

According to Dobrescu, a parent meeting on this issue will be held next week.

One mother called FOX40 to say she was in support of Coach Gregg.

"I absolutely don't feel that it was racism. My daughter is black. I'm black. Our family is black. And we didn't think that there was anything out of pocket with what coach said," parent Kristin Butler said.

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