SCOTUS: Cheerleader Must Pay Damages for Refusing to Cheer Rapist

Scene from The Handmaid's Tale

I’m sure you all remember this story. A 16-year-old cheerleader (known in court papers as HS) at Silsbee High, in Silsbee, Texas, was raped by local basketball star Rakheem Bolton, football player Christian Rountree, and another unnamed juvenile male at a post-game party in 2008. The young men:

forced her into a room, locked the door, held her down and sexually assaulted her. When other party-goers tried to get into the room, two of the men fled through an open window, including Bolton, who left clothing behind. Bolton allegedly threatened to shoot the occupants of the house when the homeowner refused to return his clothes.

Sounds pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? Bolton even admitted guilt took a plea bargain:

In September 2010, Bolton pled guilty to a lesser charge of Class A Assault and was sentenced to one year in prison, a sentence that was suspended by the judge in lieu of two years probation, a $2,500 fine, community service and an anger management course.

The school reacted by telling HS to “keep a low profile,” e.g., don’t eat in the cafeteria or get involved in plans for homecoming. Meanwhile Bolton was allowed to go on playing for the basketball team. From The Independent UK:

Four months later, in January 2009, HS travelled to one of Silsbee High School’s basketball games in Huntsville. She joined in with the business of leading cheers throughout the match. But when Bolton was about to take a free throw, the girl decided to stand silently with her arms folded.

“I didn’t want to have to say his name and I didn’t want to cheer for him,” she later told reporters. “I just didn’t want to encourage anything he was doing.”

Richard Bain, the school superintendent in the sport-obsessed small town, saw things differently. He told HS to leave the gymnasium. Outside, he told her she was required to cheer for Bolton. When the girl said she was unwilling to endorse a man who had sexually assaulted her, she was expelled from the cheerleading squad.

HS’s parents sued school officials and the school district, but the upshot was a federal court said she had to cheer for her rapist no matter what.

A federal district court dismissed the family’s claims against the school district and school officials, as well as additional claims filed against the local prosecutor. In a unanimous ruling last September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed the dismissal.

“In her capacity as a cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech—namely, support for its athletic teams,” the 5th Circuit panel said. “Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, [the district] had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”

To add insult to injury, the court called the case a “frivolous lawsuit” and ordered HS to pay $45,000 to cover court costs. You can read the decision here (PDF).

So HS and her family took the case to the court of last resort–The U.S. Supreme Court–which on Monday refused to hear the case without even making any comment!

And the final insult: A couple of months ago, the case against the football player who assaulted HS was dropped “in the interests of justice,” and the case against the unnamed juvenile rapist was dropped because “the evidence was insufficient for prosecution.”

I don’t even know where to begin in addressing this outrageous miscarriage of justice. Apparently if you’re a female high school cheerleader, you have absolutely zero free speech rights. HS didn’t even make any overt protest–she simply chose to remain silent when her rapist name was chanted by the other cheerleaders and the crowd.

It took a lot of courage for HS to stay on the cheerleading squad and refuse to disappear silently into the ether so that her rapists could continue their careers in high school athletics–and most likely go on to sexually assault other women. Not only is this horrifying outcome for all rape victims, but also it’s a dramatic setback for the rights of students to fight back against the often stupid and insensitive decisions of school administrators and school districts.

The fact that SCOTUS has refused to review this case is disgusting, and at least on of the justices should have objected. Where were Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagen? The future for women in the U.S. is looking more and more like The Handmaid’s Tale with every passing day.

26 Comments on “SCOTUS: Cheerleader Must Pay Damages for Refusing to Cheer Rapist”

  1. Delphyne says:

    I saw this yesterday – thanks for posting about it. It’s simply unbelievable, outrageous and a mockery/travesty of justice. It makes me furious and sick at the same time.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I can’t believe it. This poor girl and her family. I don’t know how they can continue to live in that hellhole of town.

      • Delphyne says:

        I hope some women’s organization starts a fund for this. I would surely give a donation to help pay down the $45K that they’re burdened with.

        I’m having some problems getting into WordPress so I can’t “like” the post right now. I’ll be back later for that, but I did post the link to it on FB.

      • dakinikat says:

        That girl needs to be given a scholarship some place civilized and gotten out of there.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks, Delphyne! The Ms. article had some contact info for the school officials if you’re interested in that.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        From the Ms. article:

        Silsbee High School officials should be held accountable for their actions. Richard Bain, Jr., the superintendent of schools, allegedly ordered H.S. to cheer for her attacker. Why don’t you tell him what you think? You can join this petition I made, to Bain and the school’s new principal, Eldon Franco:

        [iframe 240]

        Or, if you prefer to send your own letters, here’s their contact information:

        Richard Bain Jr., Superintendent, Silsbee Independent School District, 415 Highway 327 West, Silsbee, TX, 77656;; (409) 980-7800

        Eldon Franco, Principal, Silsbee High School, 1575 Highway 96 North, Silsbee, TX, 77656-4799;; (409) 980-7800

      • Branjor says:

        That girl needs to be given a scholarship some place civilized and gotten out of there.

        All girls (and women)need to be given a scholarship some place civilized and gotten out of there (and all the other woman -hating locales).
        We need our own damn country. Srsly.

  2. janicen says:

    I’m speechless with rage.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I know the feeling….

    • Woman Voter says:

      I think the rigging of the Democratic primary assessment, of it putting women’s issues back 24 years is about correct. Now, we have Pelosi making speeches about ‘reproductive care’ and that ‘separate insurance’, but she stood silent as Speaker when the President Obama signed the Stupak Executive Order making it the law.

      The child that was gang raped too is placed as the ‘badie’ and the locals are all defending their boys. It all doesn’t make sense, it really doesn’t.

  3. Fannie says:

    I wish the fugging ears were cut off the rapist.

  4. Sweet Sue says:

    It’s easy for me to say, but HS and her family should drop the anonymity and go on the mother of all media blitz tours.
    This story needs to be a Lifetime Movie, at least, and HS needs to go on Sixty Minutes, The View, etc. The entire town of Silsbee, Texas needs to be shunned and shamed, and that goes double for Cleveland,Texas.
    Jeezus, what is it with Texas?
    If Lara Logan was a kid and had no camera crew, what happened to her in Cairo could have happened in Texas.
    American men aren’t so evolved either, apparently.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Two of the six students in South Hadley, Mass., who were charged with bullying a 15-year-old girl before her suicide last year pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment charges on Wednesday and received a year’s probation each, plus 100 hours of community service.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Slap on the wrist…

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      What makes me disgusted about this is that the 2 students can’t profit from the death of this girl…until a year after the sentence.

      2 guilty pleas, no jail time in Massachusetts bullying suicide case –

      Mulveyhill and Narey, both 18, each received one year’s probation, with special stipulations that include 100 hours of community service to assist underprivileged or at-risk youth, an order that they have no contact with the victim’s family unless they get the family’s consent, and barring them from financially profiting from the case while on probation.

      Am I reading this right?

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    This is disgusting. When I see the Justice Dept going after some stupid college bowl game crap…what the fuck! (I think this particular situation warranted the full and complete four letter word.)

  7. okasha says:

    I had no idea where Silsbee is, so I Googled. According to Wikipedia, the following are the “notable people” from Silsbee:

    Mark Henry, Olympic weightlifter and World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler
    James Hunter, football player
    Len Garrett, football player
    Chloe Jones, pornographic actress
    Brandi McCain, professional basketball player in the Women’s National Basketball Association

    That explains a bit.

  8. Seriously says:

    had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering

    That is so ludicrous I suspect Scalia of feeding it to the Fifth Circuit. WTF? It all goes back to sports culture as a training ground for lack of consequences, different standards, and everything from hazing to being forced to cheer
    for your rapist and like it. I highly doubt the Principal is combing through the school disciplining members of the newspaper staff who aren’t giving it their all or members of the Chess Club displaying insufficient pep. But then again, don’t substantially interfere with the work of the school by questioning their policy of putting their students in danger and sweeping crimes under the rug.

    • bostonboomer says:

      They probably don’t have a school newspaper, but if they did the principal would probably expect the feature writer who was raped by Bolton to write a puff piece about him and enjoy it.