The girl, known as H.S., who was kicked off her cheerleading squad last year for refusing to cheer for her rapist is taking her case to the Supreme Court. This is after a lower court ruled earlier this fall that because the cheerleader was speaking for the school and not herself, she could not remain silent when shouting any particular athlete’s name. H.S. and her parents will take the free-speech suit to the Supreme Court, along with challenges to federal court rulings that found the suit to be “frivolous.”
H.S. was 16 years old when she said that she was raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star of her high school football team. Bolton was arrested but not charged, and returned to school, where he also played on the basketball team. During a game in February 2009, H.S. refused to cheer for Bolton when he went to the foul line to shoot free throws.
Unbelievably, H.S.’s lawyer says that the girls were instructed to chant, “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, come on, Rakheem, put it in.”
At halftime, H.S. was told to cheer for Bolton or go home. When she left, she was dismissed from the team. In September, Bolton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, and H.S. and her parents sued the school district and school officials for violating her freedom of expression.
H.S. told ABC, “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…After that game I decided I started this, I’m going to get my point across now. So I didn’t cheer for him at the playoff game either.”
The issue in the Supreme Court case will be based in a 1969 decision, in which the court ruled that schools could restrict students’ rights to speech if it “disrupted the educational process.” In the lower court’s ruling, H.S.’s refusal to cheer was deemed such a disruption – despite the fact that it posed a serious threat to one of its students’ health and wellbeing, which seems like a legitimate disruption of the educational process to me.
This case could clearly have significant implications for student freedom of speech, as well as the way rape victims are treated in the future. We’ll continue to follow it, although throughout, I can’t help remembering H.S.’s poignant words:
“All I wanted was for somebody to come forward and say, ‘Yes, it happened.’ If everything works out the way we’re hoping … then it makes a point that it’s not all right,” she told ABC. “And if we keep fighting for that, then maybe other people will too.”
Photo credit: Kevin Coles via Flickr.