Rah, rah, sis boom bah: Silsbee High School in Texas wants their cheerleaders smiling, energetic, and willing to cheer for their rapists by name.
H.S., a Silsbee student, reported being raped by Rakheem Bolton, a fellow student and athletic star. Bolton pled guilty to a lesser assault charge against her.
Bolton was allowed to continue playing on the varsity basketball team, which meant that in her role as cheerleader, H.S. would have to cheer for a team that included her rapist. She continued to do so, but refused to cheer for him by name during his individual free throws.
In a display of extreme disrespect for a rape survivor and disregard for her well-being, school officials insisted that H.S. had to scream "Rakheem" with the rest of the cheerleaders, or she'd be kicked off the squad. School officials also pushed H.S. "to keep a low profile, such as avoiding the school cafeteria and not taking part in homecoming activities." She refused these instructions and lost her spot as a cheerleader.
Tell Silsbee officials that this is no way to treat rape victims, and insist that they publicly issue an apology to H.S. immediately. Furthermore, tell them to instate a policy outlining appropriate treatment of sexual assault survivors, which does not put the onus on the victim to ensure smooth interactions at the school, and to instate prevention programs that have been suggested by H.S.'s father.
Update: H.S.'s family lost a First Amendment lawsuit, with the court deciding that cheerleaders are only a "mouthpiece" for their schools, with no right to refuse their to cheer their rapists. The court further declared the lawsuit "frivolous" and has ordered the family to pay more than $35,000 in legal fees. For the school to take money from a rape victim over their clear misconduct -- even if it's not for free speech reasons -- is beyond the pale. Demand that Silsbee refuse to take money from the victim's family.
Update: Want to do something else for H.S.? Journalist Scott Rose is calling for people to mail one penny to the Silsbee School District if the superintendent will not waive the fee as a form of protest. You're encouraged to send a note expressing your POV on the subject as well. Pennies should be mailed to:
Richard Bain Jr.
Silsbee Independent School District
415 Highway 327 West
Silsbee, TX, 77656
If you'd like to help H.S.'s family with their own legal fees, you can donate via Paypal to the address Wattstrial@gmail.com.
While facing rape charges, Bolton was allowed to play on the varsity basketball team, which meant that in her role as cheerleader, H.S. would have to cheer for a team that included her rapist. She continued to do so, but refused to cheer for him by name during his individual free throws.
In a display of extreme disrespect for a rape survivor and disregard for her well-being, H.S. was told she had to scream a chant for Rakheem with the rest of the cheerleaders, or she'd be kicked off the squad. H.S. reports that she was also pushed "to keep a low profile, such as avoiding the school cafeteria and not taking part in homecoming activities." She refused these instructions and lost her spot as a cheerleader.
Any student who reports being a victim of sexual assault should be protected and supported, not treated as a troublemaker and forced to do something so completely disgusting as cheer for her own rapist. H.S.'s decision to remain silent during Bolton's free throws was not disruptive to school activities. To retaliate against her for such a reasonable act displays an extreme lack of sensitivity on the part of the Silsbee Independent School District to sexual assault survivors and a general maliciousness when dealing with female students who have been victimized by star athletes important to the school's image.
This is no way to treat rape victims. Anyone who treats a victim in such a degrading manner should be removed from their position at the Silsbee School District. Furthermore, the recent court ruling that H.S. could not refuse to cheer on First Amendment grounds in no way excuses the behavior toward her, which was completely inappropriate for a school dealing with a sexual assault survivor.
I insist that you:
1. Issue a public apology to H.S. immediately for the mistreatment of her and removing her from the cheerleading squad, both on behalf of the High School and school district, and personal apologies from Superintendent Bain and Athletic Director McGallion. If they will not do so, they should be removed from their positions by the Board of Trustees.
2. Implement a school district policy for appropriate treatment of sexual assault survivors, which does not put the onus on the victim to ensure smooth interactions at the school and sets up serious consequences for retaliating against a victim.
3. Act on the materials on sexual assault prevention programs H.S.'s father has provided to the Superintendent. Specifically, implement at least one of the requested programs at the school: Take Back the Night, Coaching Boys into Men, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and STAR - Students Taking Action for Respect (now the Texas Peace Project).
4. Refuse to accept any money from H.S.'s family for legal fees defending against the lawsuit, as awarded by the court, and put this decision in writing on file with the court. To take any money from a student rape victim following your misconduct toward her is beyond the pale.