A teenage girl who was dropped from her high school’s cheerleading squad after refusing to chant the name of a basketball player who had sexually assaulted her must pay compensation of $45,000 (£27,300) after losing a legal challenge against the decision.
The United States Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a review of the case brought by the woman, who is known only as HS. Lower courts had ruled that she was speaking for the school, rather than for herself, when serving on a cheerleading squad – meaning that she had no right to stay silent when coaches told her to applaud.
Here’s the story: cheerleader goes to a party, says she was raped by two athletes. Said charge is later reduced to misdemeanor assault. At a later game, she refuses to chant his name of one of her assailants while he’s shooting a free throw. (According to this report, the cheer she refused was “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on, Rakheem, put it in.” I wish I were making that up.) And then:
This time, she said, she was called into a hallway at halftime, and the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home.
Her father came out of the stands — where the fans, he said, were mocking the girl — to join his crying daughter. After a shouting confrontation with the school administrators, he, his wife and their daughter left the game.
In the following weeks, H.S. said, “it was my family against the community” of Silsbee, a town of 6,300 where “football is everything. … They were the star athletes and I was standing up to them.”
She said youths shouted “slut” at her as she drove to school with her younger sister, who soon transferred to another school.
The only response from school officials, H.S. said, was to advise her to stay away from Bolton.
She was kicked off the cheerleading team as well. The family challenged the action as a violation of the First Amendment, lost and now have to pay $45,000 in legal fees for filing a “frivolous lawsuit”.
Numerous thoughts on this one:
I think the decision to dismiss her claim was the correct one. She has the right to free speech. She could have shouted “rapist” as he was shooting. But there is no Constitutional right to be on a cheerleading team. I’m mixed on the fine for a frivolous lawsuit. I hate the courts being abused but … Jesus. If she’d sued for a civil rights violation or something, she’d be on much firmer ground. You could make a good case that the school failed in its duty to protect her.
All that having been said, the school superintendent is fucking douchbag who has no business being in charge of the schools. Who the hell does this? And what the hell kind of school board back him up like this? And what kind of community? I briefly wondered why she stayed a cheerleader after this, but then I realized I had the question turned around. Why was he still on the team? Further reports say that the school told the victim to avoid the cafeteria and homecoming so as not to create a scene. Talk about blaming the victim.
Now, caveat time. There is a lot in this case that is unknown. There could be a he-said, she-said aspect. It may be that the initial charge was overblown. After cases like Mark Chmura and Genarlow Wilson, I’ve learned to be cautious when it comes to these things. Rape shield laws can keep a lot of relevant information out of the media, letting our natural sympathy for the victim inform our rage.
On the other hand, the chain of events described above sounds utterly plausible. There are many things I miss about Texas, but the misplaced priority on sports is not one of them. Not that this is exclusive to Texas, of course: any time a star athlete is accused of something like this, defenders come out of the woodwork even after it becomes clear that the athlete has acted badly.
We need to know more but probably never will. So my initial reaction remains. I’m OK with dismissing the lawsuit. But I’d be even more OK with dismissing the school superintendent and every other official you can lay a hand on.