Rape Victim Fights 2-Year Court Battle for Not Cheering Attacker
A high school student who was sexually assaulted by one of her school’s star athletes has spent two years in court proceedings after she was kicked off the cheer leading team for refusing to cheer on her attacker, Rakheem Bolton. At the age of 16, she was raped at a party after becoming intoxicated. The Texas girl, who is referred to as “H.S.” in legal documents to protect her identity, wants the school to admit to wrongdoing by kicking her off the cheer squad for refusing to cheer for her attacker during basketball games. “As a team, I cheered for them as a whole. When he stepped up to the free throw line, it didn’t feel right for me to have to cheer for him after what he did to me,” she said. The superintendent gave her an ultimatum: cheer on all the players or go home. “She shouldn’t be obligated to cheer for her rapist.” says H.S.’ attorney Larry Watts.
The case has become a complicated one. ABC News reports that the conviction was delayed because of a backlog of cases. Bolton was indicted by a grand jury, and was sentenced last month to a one-year suspended prison term, with two years of probation, community service and a fine. But H.S. and her parents were still upset with the school authorities, arguing that her first amendment rights to freedom of speech were violated by her removal from the cheer team.
The case has been dismissed repeatedly in state and federal courts, who say her refusal to cheer is not protected under her first amendment rights because her participation on the team is voluntary. “All I’ve wanted out of this all along is for somebody to say they’ve done wrong,” said H.S. She also accuses the the high school, the school district, the school principal, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent and the cheer leading coach of being insensitive towards her when Bolton and his friend, who is also facing charges, returned to the school. H.S. says that when she told school officials that she was being taunted, they merely told her to stay out of the cafeteria.
“At the time she refused to cheer for the boy, he had been ‘no billed’ by the grand jury,” says attorney Tanner Hunt, referring to the previous grand jury’s ruling that there wasn’t significant evidence to warrant an indictment. “At that point, insofar as anyone knew, he wasn’t a rapist.”
Now 18, H.S. tried out for the cheer leading team again and got a position. However, she was forced to quit after her grades declined. “It took a toll on her I believe,” said her father, who thinks his daughter let her grades slip to offer her an excuse to leave the team.
H.S. and her parents are determined to continue their legal battle. Their next step will involve petitioning the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for a re-plea.
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