Appeals court finds that First Amendment lawsuit by Texas high school student forced to cheer for her rapist was not “frivolous”; 140,000 call on school to refuse to take money from the victim.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled a decision by a lower court requiring a Texas cheerleader to pay $35,000 in legal fees after suing her school for forcing her to cheer for a basketball player who pled guilty to sexually assaulting her.
After the cheerleader was removed from the squad for refusing to cheer her attacker by name, her family brought a lawsuit against the school district.
The decision, issued Monday, reverses a ruling by a lower court which previously found the cheerleader’s suit “frivolous”, ordering the student to pay the school district $35,000 in legal expenses. The lower court will now be required to “recalculate” the amount owed.
The news comes after more than 140,000 people joined a popular campaign on Change.org calling on Silsbee High School to admit to mistreating the student, apologize for the actions against her, improve district policy for dealing with sexual assault, and refuse to take money from the girl and her family.
“The outpouring of support for this Texas cheerleader from well over a hundred thousand people is evidence that her story has touched many hearts,” said Change.org Senior Organizer Alex DiBranco. “The demonstration of support has meant a lot to this teenager and her family, and while this court decision represents a partial victory for them, Change.org members continue to tell the school district that it’s wrong to take a single penny from this student.”
Activists have raised money to cover the student’s legal fees and launched a protest campaign in which people mail pennies to the school.
Live signature totals from the campaign:
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