Much chatter recently on the subject of high-school cheerleader H.S., in Silsbee, Texas.
Bad things happened to H.S.; those accused – members of the basketball team for which H.S. was a cheerleader – were not charged with rape, but instead plead guilty to misdemeanor assault.
Later, H.S. refused to cheer for them, and was dropped from the cheerleading squad. H.S. & her parents sued the school, with various First and Fourteenth Amendment claims. The judge dismissed all claims, and ordered H.S. to pay the defendants’ court costs: $45,000, more or less.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal, which means H.S. is on the hook for $45,000.
Amid all the long-on-emotion, short-on-reason outrage – She was raped! Why is she being punished like this? – it seems no one is bothering to read the court’s opinion. It’s not hard to find (it’s here), and it’s only six pages long. I read it just now, and there’s nothing to disagree with.
The lesson here: be careful in pressing First (and/or Fourteenth) Amendment claims. Courts take that kind of thing very seriously. As they should.
(I’ve seen nothing to suggest H.S. has pursued civil claims against her attackers. I am not a lawyer, but I imagine she’d be on much safer ground there.)