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Cheer Her Rapist? Lets Make Noise Over This

Womens eNews - Wed, 11 May 2011 20:37 GMT
Author: Womens eNews
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Examining Cheerleaders' Rights In their lawsuit against the school district, Hillaire and her family argued that a victim has a constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to express herself by refusing to cheer for a student accused of rape. The federal court disagreed and ruled the teen had no free speech rights because cheerleaders act as agents of the school--"mouthpieces" is the word the court used--not as an individual students. The NFL cheerleaders, offended by the court's characterization of them as mere "mouthpieces," are putting their megaphones to their mouths to speak out. I did, when I wrote that Hillaire should have sued under Title IX, instead of the First Amendment, on the grounds that requiring a cheerleader to cheer for her rapist is a form of sexual harassment and thus an act of gender discrimination. Another former NFL cheerleader, Jeanne Ball, is upset to hear that there has been so little public support for Hillaire. "Fortunately, she seems to have strong family support," Ball said. Attorney Watts says Hillaire regrets nothing and is proud of herself for refusing to cheer and for bringing the lawsuit. "It was the least she could do to show everyone how she felt not only about being raped, but also about being so disrespected by school officials," he said. Former cheerleader Schoenfeld could not agree more. "We don't want cheerleaders--or any women--to stay quiet about such things," she said. "Many of us have daughters now--and sons--and we want them to have healthy relationships. There's nothing healthy about rape and there's certainly nothing healthy about making a young woman cheer for her abuser." The school's lawyer did not return a call seeking comments. Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story? Wendy J. Murphy, a former NFL cheerleader and contributing editor to Women's eNews, is a law professor at New England Law/Boston and an expert in Title IX.

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