A former Silsbee, Texas, high school cheerleader did not have a First Amendment right to refuse to cheer for a basketball player she claimed had sexually assaulted her, a federal appeals court panel has ruled.
The student — known in court papers as H.S. — attended a party after a Silsbee High School football game in October 2008, when she was 16. She alleged that several individuals sexually assaulted her, including then-football players Rakheem Bolton, Christian Rountree and an unidentified juvenile.
In January 2009, a racially divided grand jury from Hardin County refused to indict the players, who did not have criminal records. (Later, some of the players were indicted.)
H.S. said that school officials ordered her to cheer for Bolton, who also played on the basketball team, at a February 2009 game. H.S. cheered for the team, but refused to cheer for Bolton individually. She said that Richard Bain Jr., the superintendent of schools, and Gail Lokey, who was the principal at Silsbee High, ordered her to cheer for Bolton when the other cheerleaders cheered or go home. H.S. refused, left the game, and was subsequently dismissed from the squad by cheerleading coach Sissy McInnis.
In May 2009, H.S.’s parents — known in court papers as John and Jane Doe — sued District Attorney David Sheffield, Silsbee Independent School District, Superintendent Bain, Principal Lokey and McInnis. H.S.’s parents argued that Sheffield violated the First Amendment by retaliating against H.S. for filing sexual-assault charges by revealing details about the case to the public.