Cheerleader Told To Pay School She Sued After Being Kicked Off Squad For Refusing To Cheer Guy Who Assaulted Her

from the free-speech? dept

I'd been aware of an important (but unfortunate) free speech lawsuit involving a cheerleader who refused to cheer for a fellow student who had sexually assaulted her. The girl claimed that the boy had raped her when she was 16. The boy was arrested, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault, and was given various punishments (community service, a fine, probation and an anger management class), but was also allowed back on the basketball team. The girl remained on the cheerleading squad, but then refused to cheer for the boy. This being Texas, where they take high school sports significantly more seriously than much of the rest of the world, the superintendent of the school ordered her to leave the gym, and when she explained her reasons, she was expelled from the cheerleading squad. She then sued the school, claiming it was a violation of her First Amendment rights. The lower courts ruled against her, saying that being a cheerleader means accepting that you're a "mouthpiece" for the school, and thus are required to cheer for whomever the school says you should cheer for. Not only that, but adding insult to injury, the courts said that the lawsuit itself was frivolous and the girl had to pay the school $45,000. The reason the case is getting attention now is that the Supreme Court has declined to hear her appeal, meaning that her case is done, and she has to pay up.

We cover so many First Amendment cases around here, and this one deserves extra attention, because it seems troubling on a variety of levels. The idea that a student gives up their First Amendment rights by joining a particular activity seems like a very worrisome interpretation of the First Amendment. While it may be true that there are specific requirements to being a cheerleader, it seems that there are certainly ways that a school can handle this that doesn't result in punitive response for her (quite reasonable) unwillingness to cheer for this guy. But the frivolous claim is what really surprises me. As we've seen in various ridiculous cases we cover, it's really difficult to get a case declared frivolous and get legal fees. Even on lots of the copyright troll cases, winning legal fees is nearly impossible. It seems pretty crazy that this girl now has to pay up for her lawsuit here.

Filed Under: cheerleading, free speech

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  1. identicon
    Disgusted, 5 May 2011 @ 11:59pm

    This is a complete joke.

    This is why so many girls that get raped don't ever stand up and say anything about it. They are somehow found at fault, or called "petty" and "vindictive". And o actually suggest that she should quit her sport or move to another school because she was made a victim is the height of arrogance and stupidity; you are saying that she should be punished by upending her life to make it easier for the person who wronged her. I don't know that there's really any doubt that the law is imperfect, and to expect a girl who was a victim of a boy (whether rape or something else, OBVIOUSLY something happened since he was convicted) to cheer for him is cruel, regardless of whether the law had found him guilty or not yet. I also have never seen it happen where a cheerleader is required to cheer every single second of every single cheer; the fact that someone was apparently monitoring that so closely they noticed when she didn't cheer for one person amongst a crowd is completely astounding. And if she was supposed to cheer for him by herself, why could another cheerleader not simply cheer him instead while she cheered a different player? And I don't care what anyone says, this is a teenage, high school girl participating in an after school activity, and you are seriously going to expect her to cheer for someone who did something to her, and then feel her duly punished when she doesn't cheer for one person one time? It is not a job, she is not getting paid, it is supposed to be something fun to do while you are in HIGH SCHOOL. The insensitivity and idiocy of the adminstration at this school astounds me. There are so many factors at work here that highlight the very worst aspects of our law and society that it just makes me sick.

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