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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Lessons the School May Not Have Intended
May 8, 2011 - 4:18pm

I did not plan to write about this situation at first, because it involves high school, not college. However, I think incidents such as this one become building blocks for rape culture in higher education, and are therefore worthy of note on an academic blog.

Essentially, a high school basketball player pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a cheerleader at a party. At a game four months later, the cheerleader stood silently by when the rest of the squad chanted his name before a free throw, and was told by the school superintendent that she needed to either participate fully in the squad's activities, including shouting encouragement to her attacker when indicated, or drop off of the squad. She chose to quit the squad. Then she and her parents sued the school for violation of her right to free expression.

The story made the news because it traveled all the way to the Supreme Court, which on May 2 dismissed the suit as "frivolous." [Note: the Court was not saying that the assault itself, or its sequelae, were frivolous, just the technicalities of the suit.] The young woman and her family must now pay $45,000 to the school in compensation for having pursued the lawsuit.

My concern isn't with the Court (this time) but with the message the school officials sent to everyone involved. Punishing a victim for failure to support her attacker (and being forced off of the squad for noncompliance is serious punishment; not only was this presumably an enjoyable activity for the young woman, but school-related athletic accomplishments are a recognized plus on college applications) sends the message that sexual assault and its effect on the victim are themselves "frivolous," and privileges the attacker over the person attacked.

If both of these young people end up at the same college (assuming college is even a possibility for a family with $45K in debt hanging over its head going in), who is more likely to pursue the sport at which s/he excelled in high school? And who is likely to feel more comfortable at a party, or just walking across campus?

(H/t to Melissa at Shakesville http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/05/number-of-day_05.html.)

 

 

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