In what has turned out to be an odd case of school bullying, it is the school administration itself bullying a student – and then being supported in that action by a judicial decision. A student whom is being referred to simply as “H.S.” to protect her privacy as a minor, is a student at Silsbee High School in Texas. Her bullying has been cited as particularly cruel and unfathomable. This is her story.
In 2008, H.S. was raped by a fellow student, Rakheem Bolton. Bolton is not just a classmate, he is the star athlete at Silsbee high. He was found guilty of the rape in court, so there is no need for protective words like “alleged” to be used – Bolton is a rapist. Being a star athlete, and thanks to a surprisingly lenient Texas court, Bolton was let off light. How light you may wonder? For rape, his punishment 2 years of probation, a fine, attendance at an anger management course, and community service. He had a good lawyer, and managed to bargain for the lesser charge of assault.
Where the bullying comes into play is that Bolton is now the star on Silsbee’s varsity basketball team. No one argues that without him on the court the team is little more than a collection of guys in matching clothes. They need him playing to win. For all he is, he is that good of an athlete. H.S. is a cheerleader, and as such, she is at those games Bolton plays in. H.S. is not real happy about that, but she never asked he not be allowed to play. What she did decide however is that when the squad cheers for Bolton by name, she would not cheer his name aloud. She does not want to repeat her rapist’s name.
The school decided that she did not have the authority to make that choice. Never mind that almost no one would ever notice her not saying his name, for the school. It was a matter of principle. She was told that if she would not cheer for Bolton, by name, she could not be a cheerleader. H.S., and many supporters, had a problem with that – a problem that led to going to court.
Caroline Heldman of Ms. Magazine dug into the story finding that the bullying by the school administration hardly ended there. The school was so intent on making sure that Bolton was comfortable and ready to take the court at peak performance each game took extraordinary measures to do so. They told H.S. she should not take part in homecoming activities as Bolton would be present at them and there was no need to create any unneeded tension. She also shouldn’t eat in the cafeteria because Bolton eats there and that might make him uncomfortable. Never mind the victim of the rape should actually be the one the school is worried about, a star basketball player has his needs.
When the case made it to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, a gallery sat stunned when the decision was read. The court upheld the school’s decision to remove H.S. from the cheerleading squad for refusal to speak her rapist’s name. The court cited that cheerleading was a voluntary activity, and that cheerleaders merely act as a “mouthpiece” for the school whose main purpose is to “disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams.” Her refusal to cheer for her rapist by name in their opinion “constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of a cheering,” .
With so much student on student bullying across the nation, even the world as a whole, it is of no comfort that a school would take the position of catering to a rapist at the expense of the rapists’ victim. For something that is in all reality so trivial as to not say one single word in a very specific cheer, a victim was further victimized not only by the school administrators that are supposed to educate and protect her, but the judicial system that reinforced that stance. In this case, H.S. has learned she cannot count on that protection from her educators and the administration, and perhaps, as ugly as it is, at Silsbee High School, rape is okay – if you have a terrific jump shot.
As of late October of 2010, the 15 year old H.S. has yet to be reinstated, and her father has launched an appeal through the court system. For her part, H.S. is not being treated any better. Bolton is still a star supported by the hick town sports fans, and many of those fans maintain that H.S. could not have been a rape victim. To demonstrate who deeply those folks are treading water in a sea of retarded mentality, their reason why she couldn’t be a victim is based on the fact that she fought back.