CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cheerleaders at North Stanly High School were put on probation after seven of them were photographed in uniform with a President Trump campaign sign. Now, their congressman is coming to their defense. 

The photograph has gone viral, but was taken before a football game in late August on Red, White, and Blue night. 

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) put the girls on probation for the rest of the school year, although they can still cheer.

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Rep. Richard Hudson (R-District 8) wrote the NCHSAA a letter that said in part, "At the end of the day, these students have a First Amendment right to free speech, and the NCHSAA should immediately reconsider this unfair punishment." 

Board of Education officials in Stanly County said, ultimately, they decided that no disciplinary action needed be taken but did ask the students not to display the flag again. 

Officials said the policy does not prohibit students from speaking their minds or engaging in protected First Amendment activities, but because the cheerleaders were in uniform and were acting as representatives of the school, the display of the sign could be perceived as the school or school system endorsing a political campaign, which is prohibited. 

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In an interview with the Stanly News and Press, NCHSAA commissioner, Que Tucker said, “One of the rules we have is that every contest should be conducted in a wholesome, athletic environment. We take that to mean that it’s in an environment where good sportsmanship is shown, where people feel safe…that respect for all people participating is being shown.”

Due to the fact the incident caused concern for many and helped create a negative athletic environment, according to Tucker, the NCHSAA decided to reprimand the cheerleaders by putting them on probation, the article said.

Rep. Hudson wrote in part in his letter, "we should be encouraging America's youth to participate in our democracy and political process -- not punishing and silencing them."

A rally has been organized on Facebook, calling for supporters to rally around the cheerleaders at Friday's football game. As of Tuesday evening, more than 1,000 people are interested in attending. 

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