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

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    383bigblock (profile), 5 May 2011 @ 3:21pm

    Missing the point

    Wow....its not the alleged rape, its the time served by the boy, its not the conspiracy that she joined the cheerleading team to refuse to cheer to create a litigious situation,.....its none of that.

    What's the big deal that she didn't want to cheer for a particular boy. It's the school....some of you might remember the beginning of the "Zero Tolerance" policies in Texas ehere a 3rd grade girl was suspended because her purse had a piece of 4 inch chain on it as a decoration. She was booted for having a "Weapon". This is about the same issue where School Administrators check their brains at the door before opening up their mouths and making impactful decisions. I'm not aware of any rule that says you have to say "Yeah" for everyone. Why not handle the situation like an adult.....a smart adult that doesn't put undue punishment on the cheerleader. In Texas the cheerleaders cover all of the sports, so don't say "hey" for him during basketball season instead just hope he doesn't make the football team.

    She shouldn't have to change schools, he shouldn't have bury his head in the sand if he served his time and punishment.......but you can't mandate that they will like each other or get along.....and the adult thing to do would have been to ask her to not make a scene about her refusal to cheer for the guy. She could simply walk away or pretend she had something in her eye. Everyone would get their way an no kid would be hit with a $45K fine for bringing a frivalous lawsuit against in such a highly charged and emotional situation. This case simply punished everyone because the administrator checked their brain at the door.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.