Silsbee, TX – I swear I thought this was the plot of a FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS episode, but I guess I just read about it in our forums. The story starts in 2008 when a 16-year-old cheerleader for Silsbee High School accused one of the school’s star athletes, Rakheem Bolton (pictured), of raping her at a party.
Bolton and two other men would later be arrested and a grand jury would indict Bolton on a felony sexual assault of a minor charge. This charge was dropped when Bolton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. He received two years probation, community service, a fine and had to to take anger-management classes. He was also allowed to return to school and rejoin his teammates on the basketball team. “I have no hard feelings toward the girl,” Bolton told reporters. “It was a misunderstanding.”
In January of 2009, the victim was leading cheers at a basketball game Bolton was participating in, but when Bolton was about to take a free throw, the girl would stand silently with her arms folded refusing to cheer for the person she accuses of raping her. This got her kicked off the squad. “I didn’t want to have to say his name and I didn’t want to cheer for him,” she later told reporters. “I just didn’t want to encourage anything he was doing.”
So the victim and her parents hired lawyers to sue the principal and the School District. They argued that the girl’s right to exercise free expression had been violated when she was instructed to cheer for the person who sexually assaulted her. But two separate courts ruled against her, deciding that a cheerleader does not speak for themselves, but freely agrees to act as a “mouthpiece” for an institution, in turn surrendering their constitutional right to free speech.
To add insult to injury, a federal appeals court upheld those decisions and has ordered the girl to reimburse the school district $45,000 for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit against it.