TEXAS FREE SPEECH MASSACRE: Cheerleader Kicked Off Squad For Not Cheering For Her Rapist


SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: If you’re a high school cheerleader, you cheer for the whole team. The stars and the scrubs. The nice guys and the jerks. But what about a player you’ve accused of raping you? You’ve got to cheer for him too, according to a federal appeals court, because you’re really speaking for the school and not yourself. The court dismissed a free-speech suit by a Texas teenager [NOT pictured, above] who was kicked off the cheerleading squad for sitting silently, with her arms folded, while her assailant shot free throws in a playoff game. The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district’s legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. MORE

RELATED: In October 2008, H.S., as she has chosen to be identified, was a 16-year-old student at Silsbee High School attending a https://i0.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1401/5180839723_eed5453210_t.jpg?w=790post-basketball game party in her hometown. At the party, three fellow students allegedly threw H.S. onto the floor and dragged her into a separate room, where, as she later testified, she was raped by Silsbee High football and basketball star Rakheem Bolton. As some of the other party-goers tried to get into the room, two of the young men escaped out an open window. One of the men who fled the scene was Bolton, who left some clothing at the scene. (Bolton is said to have later threatened to shoot the house’s owners when they refused to return the clothes.) Bolton and one of the other young men were arrested a few days later and charged with sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony. But a county grand jury withdrew the charges, and the students were allowed to return to school and resume playing sports for Silsbee High. MORE

RELATED:  H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down. “I didn’t want to have to say his name, and I didn’t want to cheer for him,” H.S. said. “I didn’t https://i0.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1401/5180839723_eed5453210_t.jpg?w=790want to encourage anything he was doing.” She said she had done the same thing at an earlier game without incident. This time, she said, she was called into a hallway at halftime, and the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home. MORE

RELATED: “In her capacity as cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which (the district) could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams,” the three-judge panel said in a Sept. 16 ruling. The district “had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit,” the court said. “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.” MORE

RELATED: This decision is hardly the first time the right-wing Fifth Circuit has come under scrutiny for its harsh judgments. As the Wonk Room noted earlier this year, the overwhelming majority of Fifth Circuit judges are invested in the oil industry, and both of the judges who voted against reinstating a drilling moratorium during the Gulf oil disaster attended oil industry-funded junkets. In one case brought by Katrina victims against the energy industry, so many judges were required to recuse themselves that there weren’t enough judges left to hear an appeal. Yet, even in a circuit known for its knee-jerk ideology, the cheerleader rape case was heard by an unusually radical panel of three https://i0.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1401/5180839723_eed5453210_t.jpg?w=790judges. Judges Emilio Garza and Edith Clement were both on President George W. Bush’s “short list” for potential Supreme Court nominees, and Clement serves on the board of the leading organization providing industry-funded junkets for judges. The third judge, Priscilla Owen, took thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from Enron and then wrote a key opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million when she sat on the Texas Supreme Court. The panel did not include the court’s chief judge, Edith Jones, who has her own history of ignoring the pleas of women who are sexually harassed or assaulted. MORE

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