Editor's Note: Yesterday the Supreme Court denied review of the cheerleader's appeal.
In 2008, Silsbee High School football and basketball star Rakheem Bolton raped a fellow student and cheerleader known as HS with the help of two friends at an after game party. Two of these brave men fled through a window when other students tried to get into the room. Bolton was one of those who took off, and he was in such a rush that he left his clothing behind. Charmer that Bolton is, after the homeowner refused to return his clothes, he “allegedly threatened to shoot the occupants of the house,” according to Ms. Magazine’s blog.
Star athletes are important people, dammit! Bolton eventually pled to a lesser charge and was sentenced to a year in jail. Justice served! Except that a judge thought that raping a girl doesn’t necessitate prison time, so he reduced the sentence to a $2500 fine, probation, and community service.
Perhaps “community service” meant “winning basketball games,” because before you know it, Bolton was back on campus. (Actually, this was before he admitted that he assaulted HS; a very good timeline of events is up at First Amendment Center.) Silsbee High School officials did not want to Bolton to suffer any more than the poor guy already had (I mean, isn’t it the right of star athletes to get wasted after a game and sexually assault cheerleaders?!?!). HS was asked to avoid the cafeteria and not attend homecoming. She disregarded the school’s request. Worse, she remained on the cheerleading squad. When her rapist came up for a free throw in a basketball game, HS refused to cheer for Rakheem by name. However, she participated in all the cheers for the team as a group, Alex DiBranco at change.org’s Women’s Rights blog reports.
Not cheering for the guy who raped you while he tries to score? It’s like HS was blaming the victim or something. How dare she! He’s a sports hero! Totally unacceptable behavior! Booooo! Thus HS was booted from the squad.
Here’s my favorite part: Her parents sued the school and lost. The brilliant court decision said that HS volunteered for the squad, therefore she had to do whatever they told her to do. It seems she violated the school’s First Amendment Rights by not saying what they told her to say. This makes my head hurt.
This whole story is bothering a lot of people. “I applaud H.S. for getting on with her life, particularly with something like the cheerleading squad that was clearly important to her, and I think both the school and the justice system did her an unforgivable wrong here,” wrote Katie Loud at Zelda Lily. I’m sure we can all rest assured that Bolton recently told that he is looking forward to getting on with his life and playing college football. (This article also is an excellent overview of the problems with the case, which involved a grand jury that was dismissed after a DA leaked information, a second grand jury, and then the plea bargain, which happened about a month ago). In 2009, his lawyer told the media that he received a scholarship and planned to major in Communications.
Since Bolton claims that the sexual assault was a misunderstanding, I do hope he learns to communicate more effectively. Perhaps the school also might study a little harder in proper communications. The only one who seems to know how to get a message across is HS. Three cheers for HS!
Photo Credit: Andrew Storms.
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