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Cheerleader who wouldn’t cheer for her attacker loses court case, must pay school $45,000 in legal fees

May 3, 2011, 11:04 AM EDT

silsbeehigh

The Supreme Court refused to review the case of a high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for the basketball player she said had raped her. And as a lovely parting gift, the girl’s family must now repay the school $45,000 in legal fees for what a lower court termed as a frivolous lawsuit. Way to harsh our Bin Laden buzz, America.

You probably remember the Silsbee High School (Texas) cheerleading case. A then-cheerleader for the school was dismissed from the squad for refusing to cheer for the basketball player she said had raped her. H.S., as she is identified, is now in college, but she appealed the school’s ruling all the way to the Supreme Court. And on Monday the Court declined to review her appeal, nearly two years after the original incident.

Rakheem Bolton was accused of sexually assaulting the 16-year-old at a party. He was eventually convicted of misdemeanor assault, and got probation, a fine, and had to attend anger management classes.

H.S. said that the school at first told her to avoid Bolton and to refrain from attending homecoming activities, which she refused to do. She had been booted off the cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for Bolton by name during a basketball game. The specific cheer was: “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on, Rakheem, put it in.” No, I’m not making that up.

She was dismissed from the team for her actions. “As a team, I cheered for them as a whole. When he stepped up to the free-throw line, it didn’t feel right for me to have to cheer for him after what he did to me,” she said.

A federal appeals court ruled in September that the cheerleader was speaking for the school, not herself, and had no right to remain silent when called on to cheer the athlete by name.

The Supreme Court denied review of the case Monday without comment.

The family’s lawyer, Laurence Watts, said the ruling means students who try to exercise their right of free speech can be punished for refusing to follow “insensitive and unreasonable directions.”

And as a reward for trying to stick up for herself and not buckle to the pressures of authority, bureaucracy and male chauvinism, the girl’s parents receive a $45,000 bill for legal expenses. It’s a terrific byproduct of our legal system, wherein victims are cowered into keeping quiet by the prospect of negative publicity and extreme financial hardship. I guess that’s what it means when people say our freedom isn’t free.

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Cheerleader required to cheer for man who assaulted her [Ms. Blog]
Cheerleader who wouldn’t root for assailant loses [San Francisco Chronicle]

  1. lewp - May 3, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Two stories in a row about the Hoston area. What? Is there something in the water there???

    Crazy Houstonions!!!

  2. willhnic - May 3, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Americans need to realize they do have freedom of speech. This means she applied it accordingly but has to deal with the consequences. If I have to say a certain sentence at the beginning of telemarketing calls…I have the freedom to say yes or no. If I say no…I most likely will be fired. The thing is…I don’t go to jail.

    • markci - May 4, 2011 at 5:43 PM

      Willhnic, there’s a reason you can’t get job in anything better than telemarketing. Think about it.

    • bigern77 - May 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM

      willhnic, you are spot on with your analysis. Most of your downvoters’ rational faculties have been sabotaged by their passions.

      Thank god we have the rule of law and not mob justice.

      • neqis - Jun 26, 2011 at 11:53 PM

        @bigern77:
        > Most of your downvoters’ rational faculties have been sabotaged by their passions.

        Since few others have posted the reason for their downvote, this is speculation at best. By making this accusation, you’re doing a disservice both to those you accuse (by insulting them) and yourself (by discounting their arguments so superficially, you fail to understand them). Rebuttals that attempt to debase opponents have a smell about them. For one thing, how are you any different? Unless you can show concretely that they suffer from a condition and you don’t, and specific ways how the condition has affected their arguments, the rebuttal carries no weight.

        In an issue such as this, the rationality of any participant is suspect. No matter that you believe you’re thinking rationally, the reality may be that emotions inform your thoughts without you being conscious of it. This has been observed in political thought by a study at Emory University led by Drew Westen. From the article: “The finding suggests that the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments likely occur outside of awareness, and are distinct from normal reasoning processes when emotion is not so heavily engaged, says Westen.”

    • neqis - Jun 26, 2011 at 11:51 PM

      Legality is distinct from morality. Though you’re arguing about the former, the objections most people have to the treatment of H.S. are based on the latter. Since few, of any, of us posting here are lawyers, the legal arguments carry less weight.

      On the moral front, schools have a duty to care for the well-being of their students. For instance, if a teacher suspects a student is being abused, the teacher is morally (and sometimes legally) obligated to report it. By punishing H.S. for refusing to praise her attacker and exercising her constitutional rights, the school is not only failing to care for her well-being but actively harming it.

      The telemarketer analogy is incomplete. It’s not simply the content of the speech that H.S. objected to, it’s who the speech was addressing. To use telemarketing as an analogy, it would be like you having to talk to someone who abused you when you were younger. Furthermore, considering the obvious double entendre of “put it in”, in the analogy you wouldn’t just be talking with them, but trying to sell them medication when they had drugged you. You would definitely have the right to refuse to talk to this person. Your boss, having any amount of sense, shouldn’t force you. Depending on the state’s victim’s rights laws, if you were fired for not talking to your abuser, you could have the basis for a wrongful termination suit as a violation of public policy. Other rights guaranteed by the state constitution could also form the basis of a case. There could even be a case based on freedom of speech. Though firing you for not speaking to your abuser is not prior censorship, it could be argued that as it is subsequent punishment, it thus violates your constitutional right. A place where the analogy breaks down on the legal front is that Silsbee High School was not H.S.’s employer, so different standards apply.

      Lastly, you assume H.S. could think about this rationally and make a choice. That’s not how trauma works. As a rape survivor, she had no choice over her immediate reaction to the situation. Rakheem took that choice away.

  3. mtsherick - May 3, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    This story makes me sick. No wonder only 1 out of 5 sexually assulated women in the US do not report the crime.

    • eelleajks - May 5, 2011 at 2:37 PM

      I was raped eight years ago, by someone I worked with. Now, I am in a VERY ugly custody battle over MY son with said rapist. I have never been more shocked and appalled at our countries legal system. It amazes me the rights and privileges we, as a country give criminals. For me, the reason the idea of remaining quiet about what happen had more to do with a fear about what he would get away with, that if he would come after me again.
      He raped me.

      Now he wants MY son.

      This “athlete” raped a young woman.

      She gets kicked off her team, and fined.

      He will probably get a scholarship.

  4. florida727 - May 3, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    “mtsherick”s comment is sadly true. This girl deserved a better fate. The scumbag athlete will just go on his merry way and not think about the assault ever again. She has to live with the nightmare forever. Yeah, there’s justice…

    Didn’t know the statistic was only 1 out of 5. If that’s true, it’s a pretty sad commentary about our legal system.

    • bigern77 - May 4, 2011 at 6:57 PM

      It is obviously a horrible and seemingly unfair situation for the girl.

      But what is worse, this girl going through that situation or setting a legally incorrect Supreme Court precedent because of it?

      Even though I sympathize with the girl, the adult and sober choice must be the former.

    • serenesurvivor - May 12, 2011 at 1:41 AM

      The statistic was poorly phrased, and may give an inaccurate picture of the problem. “1 out of 5 do not report” or “20% of rapes go unreported” is not the accurate numbers. Here are the frightening, heart-wrenching stats:

      60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
      44% of victims are under the age of 18
      15 out of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.
      2 out of 3 assults are by someone known to the victim
      38% are a friend or acquaintance

      If a rape is reported, there is a 50.8% chance of an arrest.
      If and arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution
      If there is a prosecution, there is a 58% chance of a conviction.
      if there is a felony conviction, there is a 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail
      So even in the 39% of attacks that are reported to the police, there is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.

      1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape)

      17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape

      9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003

      About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

      In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.
      2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.

      15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

      29% are age 12-17.
      44% are under age 18.
      80% are under age 30.
      12-34 are the highest risk years.
      Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
      7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

      3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

      Victims of sexual assault are:

      -3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

      -6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

      -13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

      -26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

      -4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

      In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

      Compiled by http://www.rainn.org/statistics
      rainn references:

      U.S. Department of Justice.2005 National Crime Victimization Study. 2005.
      Bureau of Justice Statistics. Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention. 1992-2000.
      National Center for Policy Analysis. Crime and Punishment in America. 1999.

      National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
      U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.
      U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004.
      1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.
      U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.
      U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.
      World Health Organization. 2002.
      U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2005.

  5. goforthanddie - May 4, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    I’d be taking 45 grand out of somebody’s ass. Then getting a better lawyer and set up my “emotional trauma” lawsuit.

  6. rawstriper - May 4, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    Four points here:

    1. Although it’s more than likely that this guy raped her, he wasn’t convicted of rape, only misdemeanor assault, so you have to take that completely out of the equation when evaluating this situation.

    2. It pisses me off when they won’t release the name of the accuser, but they have no problem releasing the name of the accused and ruining his life forever, regardless of guilt or innocence.

    3. If this cheerleader was a minority the ACLU and probably N.O.W. would have given her free legal assistance. So why did they leave a white girl hangin’?

    4. This family may believe that their daughter was within her right to refuse to cheer and was therefore released from the squad unfairly, but just because you are principled and feel you were wronged does not eliminate the need to employ some common sense and rationale. This was a weak case from the get-go and the downside to pursuing it was having to cover the cost of the other side’s legal fees.

    American justice has become an oxymoron almost.

    • eelleajks - May 5, 2011 at 2:46 PM

      He ruined his own life when he forced himself into her.

      Lets not forget who the victim is in this situation.

      I commend her for standing up for herself, and not sacrificing her integrity.

      Whether or not she had the a legal leg to stand on, the court slapped her in the face when they awarded the court costs.

      All this did was prove to every potential rapist out there, GO FOR IT! Even if you get caught the “good ole boys judge club” will let you walk.

    • alltz - May 26, 2011 at 8:28 PM

      Actually, if the victim is not white it’s even less likely that she would get any support. Groups that supposedly look out for minorities and such do not ever support black women who have been attacked by black men.
      check out whataboutourdaughters.com for examples

  7. bkelly4 - May 4, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    This is a very disturbing outcome and goes batenly agains common sence. This case was ruled on by mutiple judges who apparrently have their heads stuck to deep in law books and legal precidence to use a little common sence. Why was the victim cautioned to stay away from the rapist, should it not be the other way around. He should have been banned from prom and the basketball team if she was a cheerleader. I was happy to see his name, Rakheem Bolton, was printed and he was convicted of at least assault. This will follow him around for the rest of his life. Anyone that is interested can Google his name and all this dirt will pop up. A small piece of justice.

  8. texangirl - May 4, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    I would definitely file a civil lawsuit against that a**hole.

  9. 4356gejm - May 4, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    A better lawyer would probably have convinced the plaintiff her action against the school was likely be found frivolous. No question there is an emotional motivation for the suit against the school, but it is the lawyer’s job to separate fact and law from emotion and to demonstrate to the client when an emotionally justifiable lawsuit is legally frivolous. The non-frivolous and rational action would be the civil suit against the perpetrator for assault, an action that is nowhere mentioned in the article, if it was ever filed by the girl or her family.

    The dismissal of this suit will have absolutely no effect on the first amendment rights of any other victim or create any obstacle to suing a perpetrator or speaking out against the perpetrator, except to the extent the victim tries to do so when acting in an official capacity on behalf of an organization (the school) in connection with an activity (cheerleading) that had nothing to do with the underlying incident. Individuals’ freedom of speech is routinely limited where attempts to exercise it are made while the individual is acting in an official capacity on behalf of an organization. Thus McDonald’s would be perfectly justified in firing a cook who screamed to the customers from the kitchen that McDonald’s food was toxic and would kill you, regardless of whether it in fact was true.

    Also, I can absolutely guarantee that most of those here complaining (including the author of the article) about the family being forced to pay the school for its defense have at some time complained equally bitterly when, in another context, the general “American” rule that each side bears its own costs in civil suits forces some sympathetic defendant to spend millions sucessfully defending, say, a slip-and-fall or medical malpractice suit. Then everyone screams for the “English” rule that the losing side has to pay the other’s costs, and that these frivolous suits would be less frequent (and the world would be made safe for democracy) if the losers were forced to pay for the other side’s costs.

    Well folks, you can’t have it both ways. Seems like just another manifestation of the utter lack of integrity in thought that pervades the republic. We all want lower taxes and less spending, but not if our ox is being gored. We all want progress, but not if it’s in our back yard or if it requires any personal sacrifice. And we all want losers to pay the cost of defending their misguided and frivolous lawsuits, except where they are filed by the victims of sexual assault. Get the emotion out of it, clear your thinking, and understand the correctness of this result, as emotionally unsatisfying as you (and even I) may find it.

  10. elvoid - May 9, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    Great post – absolutely correct on every level. Makes me wonder about the mental capacity of seven people that would give it a thumbs down, though.