Cheerleader Chastised for Speaking Out Against Abuser

Jeanne Sager
84

cheerleaderSometimes it's hard to be a law-abiding citizen. I mean, really, did you ever want to dig a forefather up and say, "Dude, listen, you done screwed up the Constitution?" I've had that feeling ever since I read that the Supreme Court told a teenage cheerleader from Silsbee High School that she had no right to refuse to cheer for her rapist.

OK, let me back up here. The 16-year-old girl accused Rakheem Bolton of rape, but the courts only convicted him of misdemeanor assault. It was a process that took awhile to wind its way through the courts, which means he got to stay in school and play on the basketball team, a team she had signed up to cheer for. Which she willingly did -- on a team level. But when Rakheem was lining up for a three-point, the girl said, "Eh, thanks but no thanks, I'm not going to scream for Rakheem."

Long story short, she was then kicked off the team. Her parents sued on the grounds of freedom of speech, and it made its way up the ladder to the Supreme Court who said, "Sorry Charlie, you're wrong, now go pay $45,000 to your school for their legal fees." Um, OW? Now, I'm NOT an expert in Constitutional law. I'm fairly versed in matters of freedom of speech thanks to 12 years in journalism, but I am wise enough to bow down to the supreme rulings of the highest court in the land. They know their stuff. The school and coach were within the bounds of the law because as a cheerleader, her words were an expression of the school rather than her own. Signing up as a cheerleader, the girl essentially agreed to spout off these cheers.

But let's talk about the law, shall we? Laws are black and white. Life isn't. School isn't. Kids aren't. And what's legal, we often find, isn't necessarily moral or humane.

A girl said a boy hurt her ... badly. That he did something criminal to her, and she was uncomfortable cheering for him on a personal level. She didn't have to own up to that. Frankly, she could have seen the boy was about to shoot free throws and said, "Eh, I have to go pee, have fun ladies." But she didn't. She admitted something difficult and something honest.

Which left her coach with a decision. Take the legal road? Or the compassionate one?

The legal process was still underway, so I can understand the cheerleaders as a whole still cheering for the boy. Innocent until proven guilty and all of that. But a good coach, a good person, would have said, "Yeah, take a minute, kid, get yourself together." Instead, she ended up in the office of the district superintendent, and she was kicked off the team.

Legal, but not right.

We send our kids into school buildings hoping that they will be treated not as someone that a teacher or coach can boss around, but as human beings with thoughts and feelings. Push this forward a few years, and put it in a work setting. If a woman were told she had to work with her sexual abuser, then fired when she refused, I'd smell a sexual harassment lawsuit. So why should a kid have to suffer being pushed around ... just because she's a teenager? Oh, right, because we have the law. But laws aren't always perfect, are they?

Allowing schools to fall back on law rather than humane treatment of our kids sets a scary precedent. We need to know that our kids' teachers, coaches, and administrators are thinking as much with their hearts as they are with their brains.

What do you think of this case? Would you side with the school or the girl?

 

Image via Beth Rankin/Flickr

Read More