Silsbee Superintendent Richard Bain told H.S., a 16-year-old student cheerleader, that she would either cheer for her rapist or be kicked off the squad. When she was harassed by other students and called a “slut,” school officials told her to avoid the cafeteria and lay low. This is clearly unacceptable and despicable treatment of a student rape victim — but H.S. is the one stuck paying the school district tens of thousands of dollars. Where’s the justice in that?
Earlier this month, H.S.’s final appeal of her First Amendment case was denied, letting the lower court ruling stand that cheerleaders are nothing but a “mouthpiece.” (NFL cheerleaders have spoken out against this.) Student who pick up those pompoms lack any free speech rights, including the right to refuse to cheer for a player that has assaulted them. Furthermore, the courts decided that arguing a high school girl has the right to refuse to cheer for her rapist — “Two, four, six, eight, ten! Go Rakheem. Put it in!” — amounted to such a ridiculous claim, H.S. should have to pay the school district’s legal fees, to the tune of more than $35,000 (some media has reported a higher figure, but a Change.org investigation into the documents has revealed discrepancies and a filing error, which has yet to be officially resolved).
This is tens of thousands of dollars school officials are taking from a student rape victim they wronged.
Last fall, when H.S.’s story first broke, with an investigation pushed by the Ms. Magazine blog, nearly 20,000 outraged Change.org members took action demanding that the school make amends. But the school district has never done so, and we must continue to speak out. The failure of the courts to protect a rape survivor does not justify the school’s treatment of her. Tell the Silsbee School District to refuse to take money from a student rape victim, apologize, and protect future survivors.
H.S.’s father has been pushing to have the school implement sexual assault prevention programs — such as Take Back the Night, Coaching Boys into Men, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Students Taking Action for Respect (now the Texas Peace Project) — providing hundreds of pages of information that has been steadily ignored. He told Change.org that while he cannot undo what happened to his teenage daughter, “if there’s one more kid out there” who he can prevent from getting the same treatment at the hands of school officials, his struggle is worth it.
Yet Silsbee school officials have shown zero concern for the well-being of student survivors of sexual assault. Support H.S., her father, and future survivors by signing this petition.