In the fall of 2008, a Texas high school cheerleader (known as H.S. in court documents to protect her identity) was locked in a room and raped by a fellow student at a house party.
Fast forward to February of 2009: H.S. is trying to resume her old life as a cheerleader. She’s cheering at a school basketball game, but her attacker, Rakheem Bolton, is on the team — he’s shooting free throws. And a circle of administrators is telling H.S. that if she doesn’t cheer for him by name, she can’t be a cheerleader anymore.
H.S. refused. She was kicked off the cheerleading squad, berated and publicly humiliated by school officials, including Silsbee District Superintendent Richard Bain.
H.S. and her family fought back — eventually suing the school to reverse their decision, arguing that it violated H.S.’s right to free speech by booting her for a symbolic gesture. And H.S.’s story ignited a national outcry, covered on ABC and in Sports Illustrated.
But the court said that her school had the right to remove her. And to add insult to injury, the judge ordered that H.S.’s family pay her school’s legal fees — more than $35,000.
Now school officials have a choice: They can further punish H.S.’s courageous stand by accepting the money and causing financial hardship for her family. Or they can refuse to do so.
Public pressure on the school system continues to mount. A petition on Change.org has nearly 20,000 signatures — more than twice as many people as live in the school’s entire town — but there’s been no announcement from the superintendent.
You can help by adding your name. Sign the petition today to tell Silsbee Superintendent Richard Bain to apologize to H.S. and not make her pay more than $35,000 for her school’s legal fees.