It’s an unfortunate reality that women and girls face a ton of societal scrutiny when it comes to their bodies. And now, a Wisconsin school district is facing a potential lawsuit over reports that coaches at a local high school body shamed cheerleaders. Complaints against the coaches first surfaced in March 2018, when the Tremper cheerleaders were presented with “awards” at a banquet with titles like “Big Booty” award, the “Big Boobie” award, and the “String Bean” award. According to The New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a warning to the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) after it failed to intervene.
In its demand letter to the school district, the ACLU noted that the same awards were presented at the banquet in 2017. The letter also stated that parents had reported coaches verbally harassing their daughters. After the school’s principal, Steve Knecht, received several complaints, he investigated the behavior, but ultimately concluded that the awards “were meant to be funny.” School district officials sided with the principal, with the ACLU noting that cheerleaders at the school continued to face harassment.
The letter warned that the school would be sued for violating Title IX anti-discrimination rules unless it disciplined the coaches and implemented anti-harassment training for employees. Tanya Ruder, a spokeswoman for the district, told the Times that “a clear expectation has been set that awards of this nature are not acceptable and are not to be given at Tremper cheerleading banquets going forward.”
The body-shaming banquet wasn’t the only incident in the district that the ACLU took issue with. In its letter, the organization also cited a health class assignment at a different KUSD high school that suggested rape victims are responsible for avoiding their assaults.
It’s disgusting that this kind of harassment is taking place at a high school—an institution that should be nurturing and empowering young women. Teenage girls shouldn’t have to deal with objectification from their teachers and coaches (or anyone), and we hope the district takes action.