Photos by Jeff Vorva
Fired Stagg cheerleading coach Bridget Guzior (above) cheers for her former team (below) during a meet at Andrew High School on Saturday afternoon.
Four days after being fired as Stagg’s cheerleading coach by District 230 officials and three days after she signed and dotted the ‘i’ and crossed the ‘t’ of her first name on sexual harassment charges against a Stagg administrator, Bridget Guzior sat in the stands to watch her former team compete at the Winter Storm Invitational at Andrew High School.
She was just another fan in the stands on Saturday at the Tinley Park school, cheering the cheerleaders as they finished third in the coed division.
“I might not be a Charger anymore, but I still will have the Chargers in my life forever,” she said.
Guzior also said that despite a rough four months, she plans on returning in some capacity.
“I’m not done with IHSA cheerleading,” she said.
Guzior, 29, of Orland Park, was officially released from her part-time duties as Stagg’s coach after a Consolidated High School District 230 special meeting on Dec. 12 that included close to 5 ½ hours of deliberation during an executive session.
Board members did not comment, but a district official issued a statement saying, “The primary reason for the board’s action this evening is Ms. Guzior’s profane text message to a student in August of this year. This conduct was in violation of a written administrative directive approximately one year ago, which was reinforced in writing again last spring.
“Contributing to the board’s decision are Ms. Guzior’s failure to attend a required investigatory conference on Oct. 11, 2017, and her inadequate recordkeeping in connection with the cheer program violated district policies and established procedures, although the board emphasizes that no financial improprieties have been alleged or found.’’
The next morning, Guzior travelled to the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago to sign a harassment charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against Stagg Athletic Director Terry Treasure.
District 230 officials said that the pending charge had nothing to do with her dismissal and “The board notes that the complaint was deemed imperfect because Ms. Guzior failed to sign and verify the complaint.’’
“You can’t file a charge unless you are terminated,” Guzior said. “The district went on record and said they didn’t follow up on allegations because I didn’t sign off and it was imperfect. But you can’t sign off on a charge unless you are terminated.’’
Now that the charges are signed, D230 Director of Communications Carla Erdey on Monday referred to the statement given after the special meeting and added, “The district has no further statement to make at this time.’’
Treasure did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
A claim of bullying
Guzior said the district was “bullying’’ her with various charges before eventually firing her for sending a personal text to an athlete and that the text contained a profanity when she wrote “drama free curse is over the bitch is gone!’’ She said the profanity was not aimed at a person, but at a circumstance.
“There was one charge and when that didn’t work, there was another charge; and when that didn’t work there was this charge,’’ she said. “There were charges where they found no wrongdoing.
“I’m sorry that I said that word in a text message, and everyone learned a lesson – especially me. However, to be a decorated coach and to never have any sort of write-up in six years and get canned for that? The word that I said is far less than the gestures and comments that you hear in a traditional sport.’’
Guzior also said that the text was sent to more than one person, including the athlete’s mother.
“They (district officials) didn’t attach the mom’s response that said ‘We love you’ and ‘Thank you for inspiring leadership with my son,’” Guzior said. “And they didn’t attach the beginning – the text really started off as me thanking them for a gift. It was truly just done out of love. No person in the program had an issue with the text, including the mother on the text. They (officials) were tone deaf to that.’’
A charge of harassment
According to her files submitted to the Illinois Department of Human Rights in September, she alleges that Treasure made sexual statements and gestures during meetings, once called her “hot and in shape” and someone “who knows how to take care of a man.’’ She alleges Treasure hugged her tight and kissed her on the head.
She said on Saturday she was “disgusted, shaken up and a little freaked out,’’ by the actions. When a colleague suggested she resign, Guzior said she told the colleague, “Over my dead body.’’
Guzior also alleges Treasure disparaged cheerleaders and didn’t recognize competitive cheerleading as a sport.
“As a young woman, you deal with things that are said – it’s a part of your daily life,” Guzior said. “Cheerleading gets a bad enough rap, and we were respected by most of the coaches at Stagg. They know we had trained athletes. And to demean the program and us like that – I was blown away that he said that.’’
A team in transition
The Chargers finished third in the state in the coed division in 2015 and qualified for state four times on Guzior’s watch. She said the team had the potential of winning a state championship during the 2017-18 season.
Several athletes left the program and new coach Allison Culver, who was Guzior’s assistant for four years, was happy her team upgraded from a 71.81 score at its first meet of the year in Wilmington to a 73.57 at Andrew on Saturday. However, that score is far from the 87.31 Illinois High School Association postseason average the Chargers had last season.
“We have amazing athletes who came out who have been doing really well in practice and doing really well, and I’m very proud of them and they are very proud of themselves,’’ Culver said. “We’re lucky to have the support that we have.’’
Guzior said she would try to help set up those athletes who left the team with club teams. But she said she is sad that those athletes won’t get to compete this year.
“When you take over a program that’s never made it to the state finals before in school history and build it from the ground up, these kids became a part of me,” Guzior said. “They were ready to win. This year in June we were scoring 9.6 and 9.8 out of 10. The writing was on the wall. This was the team that could do it (win a state championship).’’
Insiders say there has been friction between athletes on the team and athletes who left. During the board’s marathon executive session on Dec. 12 there were a few brief heated exchanges between parents.
Lemonade from lemons
While Guzior says she doesn’t want the attention and stress, she will continue to stand up for what she believes is the truth.
However, she said that there is some relief.
“I am happy that we’re not hanging by a string any more,’’ she said. “I’m happy that everybody has some sort of closure, whether it’s good or bad. My athletes were led to believe there was a chance I was coming back for a really long time.’’
Guzior has been a part of the sport since sixth grade and was a cheerleader for Sandburg.
She said she is hoping to spend more time with her three young children: Reese, 7; RJ, 6; and Rory, 4.
“I didn’t know if I could live without cheerleading,” she said. “It becomes your life. Every decision I made was about the team. The lemonade to this lemon situation is that I get to be a really great mom. I’m a hockey mom and a cheer mom, and I’m there for my kids all the time and that’s nice. I am busier than ever.
“My life is going to go on, and I am good. I’m not done with IHSA cheerleading. I’m sticking around. It’s something that I love undyingly and I can’t give it up. But for now, there is a little bit of a pause.’’