The Cheerleaders and the Nude Photos
Posted by Shaun Dawson on December 10, 2008
Two Cheerleaders at Bothell High School in Bothell, Wa. were suspended from the school squad. The reason? Nude pictures of the two girls were circulated, first among the football team, then to the student body and finally to the administrators of the school. One of the girls received a 30-day suspension and the other was suspended for the rest of the school year.
The parents of the two girls are now calling foul. They have filed lawsuits against the Northshore School District, alleging school officials erred when they suspended the girls from the team.
Both lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court, accuse school administrators of violating the girls’ due process rights, needlessly sharing the photos with other school staff members and failing to promptly report the matter to police as possible child pornography.
The photos were taken separately. The first photo was taken 3 years ago. It showed the girl topless and was originally sent to the cellphone of her boyfriend at the time. The picture was then accidentally sent to other Bothell High School students.
The other girl’s photo was taken in June when she and a fellow cheerleader used their cell phones to each snap photos of themselves naked. That photo too was later accidentally sent to other Bothell High School students.
Shortly after the June photos were taken, school officials heard rumors the pictures were circulating among students, particularly football players. They sent a letter to all cheerleaders’ parents, warning that if inappropriate photos were found, it could result in suspension from the squad.
Football players were told to delete the pictures from their cell phones, if they received them, but in August school administrators received copies of both photos. This resulted in the disciplinary action taken against the two girls.
Attorney Matthew King, who represents both families, said it was troubling that only the girls were punished while the football players and other students who sent and received the photos, were not disciplined.
“We’re not technically challenging the sanctions as being too strict, we’re saying they weren’t evenly enforced across the school,” King said. “There should have been some punishment meted out to those who were in possession of the photos. … It seems like the girls are getting the brunt of it.”
King argues the district’s student handbook didn’t specifically prohibit the girls’ behavior, and didn’t outline potential consequences for a case like this.
“My clients fully realize what they did was stupid,” King said, adding that the girls never intended for the photos to be distributed and have been mortified by the entire incident.
He wants the disciplinary action expunged from the girls’ school records, the remaining teen reinstated to the cheerleading squad and some form of apology from district officials for neglecting to discipline other students in the case.
Northshore spokeswoman Susan Stoltzfus countered that school officials acted appropriately, reported the matter to police and gave both girls a chance to appeal their suspensions to a disciplinary committee and to the School Board.
“Everyone along the line agreed the discipline was appropriate,” she said. “Obviously, we take these things seriously, but we really don’t believe this (case) has a lot of merit.”
“This is frivolous,” Northshore School District attorney Mike Patterson said. “It should never have gone to court and they (the families suing) should recognize that what happened here was created by their own doing.”
Northshore officials believe the girls clearly violated the district’s athletic code, which students must agree to in order to participate in school activities. The girls understood that as athletes, they would be held to higher standards of behavior, Stoltzfus said.
“When you sign up to be a cheerleader — or for any student activity — you agree to certain codes of behavior,” she said. “We consider them student leaders, and we want them to be role models.”