February 21st, 2019 – The American Civil Liberties Union has put a stop to the rah-rah-rah-ha-has with their demand letter addressing concerns over inappropriate awards given out at a Wisconsin high school cheerleading banquet last year. Among the awards handed out were “Big Booty,” “Big Boobie,” and “String Bean.”
Tremper High School, a member of the Kenosha Unified School District, has hosted the cheerleading banquet for five years but in 2017 some of the titles fired up both students and parents.
The ACLU detailed a number of troubling moments that the banquet, which usually sees 100-150 people in attendance, produced. In 2017, one brunette cheerleader was awarded a blonde wig because she was “deemed a ditzy girl.” The demand letter goes on to explain how the school coaches reacted while passing out awards.
“A parent reported that the coaches ‘laughed hysterically’ when handing the Big Boobie award to its recipient and made comments on the microphone about ‘what a feat’ it was that this student could maneuver through cheer routines with her ‘enormous boobs,'” the letter read.
“The ACLU received video footage of the coaches handing the Big Booty award to its recipient when doing so, the coaches proclaimed in front of the crowd, ‘We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt.'”
Following the March 2018 awards banquet, parents and an athletic coach of a different sport contacted Tremper Principal, Steven Knech, in an attempt to inform him of the incident and express their concerns.
“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 coach wrote.
Knecht informed the cheer coaches that he would launch a formal investigation but ultimately concluded that he found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the coaching staff. A back and forth ensued between the principal and parents, which ended with Knecht saying that the awards were:
“meant to be funny” and that the coaches were “just joking around.”
Over the past year, officials in the school district continued to push back against the principal’s assessment. In May 2018, a KUSD Human Resources official directed the lead cheer coach to send apology letters to the students who received the “funny” awards, as well as a directive to resign.
The ACLU stayed on top of the case, obtaining a memo from August 2018, and learned that Principal Knecht allowed the cheer coach to remain on staff.
We’re demanding Tremper High School stop distributing objectifying awards, including awards for the “Biggest Booty,” or “Biggest Boobies.”
Students should be commended for their hard work, not their bodies.https://t.co/Cfl0VpwLtN
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 20, 2019
On February 19th, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project sent their official demand letter to the KUSD outlining how the district was violating Title IX (which prohibits sex discrimination—including sexual harassment—in education programs that receive federal funds).
They also asked for officials to “institute appropriate discipline against the staff involved with the Tremper High School cheer awards” as well as instituting “robust, mandatory anti-harassment training for all District employees.”
Tanya Ruder, the Kenosha Unified School District chief communications officer, said in a statement 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 ACLU also learned that parents will no longer be invited to the cheerleading awards banquet.