The American Taliban in action:
Silsbee High School in Texas wants their cheerleaders smiling, energetic, and willing to cheer for their rapists by name. Go team!
H.S., a Silsbee student, reported being raped by Rakheem Bolton with the help of two of his friends, a fellow student and athletic star. In the end, Bolton ended up getting off without serving any jail time by pleading guilty to a lesser assault charge, spending two years on probation, doing community service, paying a fine, and attending anger management courses. Hardly seems like an adequate punishment, but it's unfortunately not uncommon for attackers to bargain down their charges. What really gets the blood boiling is how the students' high school treated the victim.
Bolton was set to be on the school's varsity basketball team, and they couldn't risk losing by barring him from playing for a silly thing like a rape charge. That could impact their chances at winning. Who cares about the traumatic impact it would have an a cheerleader who needed to vocally support a team including her rapist?
But H.S. fulfilled her role as a cheerleader, participating in all the cheers for the team as a group. She simply refused to shout the first name of the man who assaulted her when he stood up alone to make free throws. It seems like she was being more than accommodating, when an student athlete facing trial on rape charges most likely should have been suspended from the team, even if his presence wasn't a source of immediate distress to his victim in her position as cheerleader. 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.
More from Ms. Magazine:
H.S.’s parents sued the school for violating her right to free speech, but an appeals court dismissed her case earlier this month. The bizarre reasoning: “In her capacity as cheerleader, [she] served as a mouthpiece through which the school could disseminate speech—namely, support for its athletic teams.” Not cheering for Bolton “constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, [she] was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.” In other words, the “work of the school” is basketball, and H.S. was obligated to put on a robotic smile and cheer for the man who had assaulted her.
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? Here’s his contact information: Richard Bain Jr., Superintendent, Silsbee Independent School District, 415 Highway 327 West, Silsbee, TX, 77656; firstname.lastname@example.org; (409) 980-7800
And you can contact the school’s new principal, Eldon Franco, to demand that H.S. be reinstated on the squad: Eldon Franco, Principal, Silsbee High School, 1575 Highway 96 North, Silsbee, TX, 77656-4799; email@example.com; (409) 980-7800
Outraged? Make those calls—and sign the petition.