A Texas high school has taken “school spirit” to the extreme and kicked a cheerleader off the squad after she refused to cheer for a football player who sexually assaulted her. According to Ms. magazine, player Rakheem Jamal Bolton, 19, of Silsbee High School in Hardin County, TX, and two other males were accused of sexually assaulting a female student (identified only as H.S.) in 2008 at a post-game party. H.S. claims the three young men forced her into a room, locked the door, held her down and sexually assaulted her. Other party-goers tried to get in the room and two of the three men, including Bolton, fled through the window … H.S. took Bolton and the other two young men to court in September 2010, where he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault. Bolton was sentenced to a year in prison, but the sentence was suspended and he’ll stay out of jail as long as he does not violate the terms of probation. (Gotta love our criminal justice, don’t ya?) Bolton told the local news station about H.S.’s accusations, “I feel like it was just a misunderstanding.”
Now Bolton is back at Silsbee High School, playing on the basketball team, and H.S. is still a cheerleader. When it came time for the cheerleading squad to cheer the players by name during their free throws, H.S. refused to cheer for “Rakheem.” Refusal to cheer got her kicked off the team. Her parents sued the school, arguing kicking her off the team violated her right to free speech, but a court tossed the case out, 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, if the school tells her she has to cheer for her attacker, she has to cheer for her attacker.
It’s screwed-up that Silsbee High School wouldn’t accommodate this female student and it makes me wonder if people don’t believe her or just wish she would shut up about it. But the real question is: If Rakheem Bolton was accused of rape and pleaded guilty to assault, why is he allowed to play for Silsbee High School sports teams at all? America really does let its sports stars do anything, doesn’t it?
UPDATE: Thank you commenter Mk0909 for pointing out Rakheem Bolton was technically accused of sexual assault, not rape. Originally this title used the word “rapist” in it, but it is more precise to refer to him as an attack. That change has been reflected throughout the piece.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: My lawyer friend, Patrick, knows things about things and he weighed in on the rape/sexual assault distinction:
At first glance, I’d say you were right the first time. Certain states, Connecticut among them, don’t have a crime called rape, but rather a broader crime called “sexual assault.” That said, the definition of “sexual assault” in Texas looks a lot like what would colloquially be called rape.
Some parts of Texas must be really screwed up. That said, it isn’t really a free speech issue. She isn’t being forced to be a cheerleader. It is a student safety issue. This guy should be in jail — not playing for his high school basketball team.
So there you go.