By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The ACLU wants the Kenosha, Wisconsin school district to discipline the coaches who handed out the offending awards and mandate anti-harassment training for all district employees.
A cheerleading squad at a Kenosha, Wisc., high school has attracted the American Civil Liberties Union's attention after a parent complained that girls were being given "Big Boobie" and "Big Booty" awards.
By their coaches.
In real life.
Not a Seth MacFarlane movie.
At last year's annual banquet for the Tremper High School cheerleaders, according to The New York Times, coaches handed out some eye-popping awards.
"There was the Big Boobie award for the girl with the biggest breasts," the Times reports. "The coach giving the award, according to several parents among the 100 people in attendance, made a joke that the girl risked a concussion when she ran because of her 'enormous boobs.' There was a Big Booty award for another girl. In a video from the event, held at a local catering hall, the coach presenting the award said: 'We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt.'
"The String Bean award," the Times reports, "went to a freshman who, as the Tremper cheerleading coach Patti Uttech later told school administrators, 'was so light and skinny.' "
This year's awards banquet is in March. Parents aren't invited.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the ACLU tweeted that it's on the case: "BREAKING: Kenosha Unified School District is on notice. Our demand letter exposes their pervasive sex discrimination, including Tremper High School's cheerleading banquet objectifying girls' bodies. Awards distributed include 'Big Boobie' and 'Big Booty.'"
The demand letter maintains the school district violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds.
"Sexual harassment under Title IX includes not just physical sexual acts, but also verbal or nonverbal conduct that creates a hostile environment that denies or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from a school program or activity, such as a sports team," the letter states. "Wisconsin's Pupil Nondiscrimination Law contains similar prohibitions."
Uttech, the cheerleading coach, received a letter from the school district's human resources department shortly after last year's awards ceremony asking her to submit a formal resignation and send a letter apologizing to each of the cheerleaders who won the awards, the Times reports. Uttech and another coach, Nely DeThorne, wrote emails to the cheerleaders, saying they were "sincerely sorry for having caused you and your family any embarrassment or distress," but declined to resign, according to the Times.
A parent contacted the ACLU.
The ACLU wants the district to discipline the coaches who handed out the offending awards and mandate anti-harassment training for all district employees. If the district refuses, the ACLU will consider filing a lawsuit, Emma Roth, a lawyer for the ACLU Women's Rights Project, told the Times.
Meanwhile, let's talk about all the ways these girls have been failed by the adults tasked with teaching, shaping and inspiring them.
The adults who, in theory, are there to guide teenagers through the social minefield of high school.
The adults tasked with helping these girls nimbly sidestep lunchroom cliques and Snapchat bullying and Juuling and the pressure to drink and the pressure to smoke pot and the pressure to have sex and the pressure to look like a Kardashian and the pressure to be pleasing on the outside no matter what you've got going on on the inside.
The adults who could, in ways both subtle and overt, remind their young charges that high school can be wonderful or terrible or something in between, and regardless, it is temporary. And the things you're judged for, remembered for, celebrated for, ridiculed for in high school bear very little resemblance to the things that matter most in the real world.
Instead, a coach and her cohorts turned the girls into body parts. Body parts that have always gotten more than their fair share of attention in our culture. By the time a young woman graduates from high school, her breasts and her butt have been commented on, dress-coded, possibly groped, definitely judged and otherwise made to take up far more room on her list of worries than they should.
I'm trying to imagine being 16 or 17 and sitting in a room filled with my peers and their parents, gathered to celebrate a sport I love, and hearing an adult talk about my "enormous boobs." An adult I've been trained to revere or, at the very least, obey.
I'm trying to imagine what it would feel like to stand up and accept a "Big Boobie" award, all eyes on me as I do. I'm trying to imagine where I'd look. Down at the floor? Up at the ceiling? Into my coach's laughing eyes? Into the audience's? I'm sorry any girl experienced that. I'm sorry adults so often forget how excruciating it can be to be young. I'm sorry adults who are in positions to make it less excruciating so often make it more so. I'm glad the cheerleaders have the ACLU on their side. If any of them happen to be reading this, I'd like them to know they've got me on their side too. ___ Join the Heidi Stevens Balancing Act Facebook group, where she hosts live chats every Wednesday at noon. [email protected] ___ (Contact Heidi Stevens at [email protected], or on Twitter: @heidistevens13.) ___ (c)2019 Chicago Tribune Visit Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. _____ PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):