Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can A Cheerleader Refuse to Cheer on 1st Amendment Grounds?

The 5th circuit says no.  A Texas high school cheerleader who refused to cheer for a player she accused of sexually assaulting her (he later pled guilty to a misdemeanor) lost her suit against the school district and officials who dismissed her from the squad. The court recited as fact that the plaintiff as a cheerleader was "contractually required to cheer for the team," including her attacker.  Her complaint alleged that her determination not to cheer for her attacker was an exercise of symbolic expression of her disapproval of her attacker, protected by the First Amendment.  The court rejected the  argument:
In her capacity as cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which SISD could disseminate speech -- namely, support for its athletic teams. Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, SISD had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.

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