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
    Michial Thompson, 5 May 2011 @ 3:48pm

    Miss the point

    Since when do cheerleaders cheer individual players? Aren't they actually there to motivate BOTH the ENTIRE Team, AND the audiance?

    I also don't even see how the First Amendment is even a part of this? And I especially don't see how this "took the First Amendment down with it."

    This is no different than a post that I make on a forum being deleted because the forum owner doesnt like it. The school kicked her off the team because she didn't do her job. Her refusing to do her job is not a First Amendment Right. BUT the school EXPECTING her to do her job in order to be a part of the team IS THEIR RIGHT.

    If this would have been allowed to happen, then I could get a job working for anyone I wanted. Claim that I didn't want to do my job because I didn't like so and so and I was protesting... They wouldn't be able to fire me if this would have been allowed to happen.

    I personally also like that she still has to pay the legal fees, maybe if enough cases force the money grubber to pay for frivilous accusations there might be less of them....

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