In a case of better late than never, the superintendent of the Kenosha, Wis., area schools has finally outright banned cheerleader awards, such as the “big booby” and “big booty” awards a coach handed out at Tremper High School (I wrote about it here).
The American Civil Liberties Union had threatened a lawsuit against the district after some parents and cheerleaders objected to the awards and the New York Times wrote about them. The coach circumvented the outrage, however, by announcing that parents would be excluded from the next team banquet.
The coaches were banned from competition a week later, although the team was still allowed to compete, and the district dismissed the brouhaha, the principal dismissed complaints saying the coaches “were just joking around,” believing that the teenagers didn’t mind being honored — mocked, really — for their physical attributes.
In a districtwide memo this week, according to the New York Times, Sue Savaglio-Jarvis banned the awards.
“The district has taken prompt and remedial action in order to protect the students and to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring in the future.”
“Mock awards of any such kind per the date of this memo are strictly prohibited,” she said.
Of course, the district hadn’t taken any prompt action; that’s why the ACLU threatened the lawsuit in the first place.
In its original warning to the district, the ACLU noted at least one other athletic coach complained about the awards. The complaint was rejected.
“I feel that I need to tell you this for the protection of these girls . . . . I don’t think it takes much to see that this is extremely degrading to women.” The same coach contacted one of the cheer coaches directly about her concerns on April 24, 2018. She wrote, “The last thing these high school girls need is a fellow woman in their lives communicating to them that they are objects or that their appearance is something to be gawked at, demeaned, laughed at, or even awarded for that matter.”
The cheer coach responded on April 26,2018,“I honestly don’t feel that I need to explain myself about how we ran our banquet. Actually we have ran it this way for years and have never had a problem.”
In an April 28, 2018 email to the cheer coaches, [principal Steven] Mr. Knecht stated that Tremper had received complaints about the awards from four different people and that he would launch an investigation into the allegations. After persistent follow up from one parent, Mr. Knecht reported he could find no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the coaches. Mr. Knecht did not provide this parent with any justification for his finding nor did he indicate to the parent which school policies or procedures he relied upon in conducting the alleged investigation. When the parent insisted Mr. Knecht had missed something, he responded that the awards “were meant to be funny” and the coaches were “just joking around.”
The Times says the coaches are “no longer with the district,” according to the Kenosha Unified School District spokesperson.