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.
As Rakheem Bolton came to the free throw line during this February 2009 basketball game, the Silsbee High cheerleading squad had a rhyme at the ready: two, four, six, eight, ten, come on Rakheem, put it in.
Keep in mind that four months earlier, cheerleader Hillaire S. had alleged that Bolton had raped her at a house party. And now she was being asked to gleefully urge him to “put it in.” She quietly folded her arms, stepped back from the rest of the squad, and refused.
A few weeks later, she once again found herself asked to cheer when Bolton approached the free-throw line. This time, she knelt down next to her cheerleading coach and remained silent. The coach took her into the gym’s foyer to face the school superintendent and the Silsbee principal. Hillaire says they told her she needed to cheer for everyone. Sobbing, she stood her ground. 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.
She was formally removed from the squad the next school day, 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.
“It frustrates me,” said the teen, who is referred to by her initials H.S. in court documents. “All I’ve wanted out of this all along is for somebody to say they’ve done wrong.”
She insists, however, that the fight is worth it, if only to give other rape victims a reason to stand up for themselves.
“If everything works out the way that we’re hoping … then it makes a point that it’s not all right,” she said. “And if we keep fighting for that, then maybe other people will too.”
She has accused the high school, the school district, the school principal, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent and the cheerleading official of being insensitive after her sexual assault, especially after her attackers returned to school.
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 more than 40,000 signatures — more than four times 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.
For more on this story: http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/05/27/a-cheerleaders-rape-in-a-small-texas-town/
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