High school students’ ‘hotness contest’ draws controversy

Posted at 4:22 PM, May 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-07 18:22:35-04

ISSAQUAH, Washington — Contests are a part of life for high school students, but some say a competition at a school in Washington state is offensive and possibly dangerous, but there’s nothing the school board can do to stop it.

“May Madness” is a tradition at Issaquah High School where male students pit their female classmates against each other in an online tournament and vote on which students are hotter.

Girls are encouraged to “look their finest” at school while the voting is going on, but many students don’t approve of the contest.

“This kind of thing is sexualizing us girls like we’re some sort of trophy,” student Devon Keller said.

“Almost every teenage girl has self-esteem issues, and doing something like that is absolutely ridiculous,” student Tristan Robinson said.

The contest has been going on for five years, and no one has been able to make it go away. School officials said they are limited in what they can do because the contest isn’t being run on school grounds.

“It’s hard. It doesn’t feel good to anybody,” District Spokesperson Sarah Niegowski said. “Last year when this happened, parents went to police and got the website shut down. But this year they may not be so lucky.”

In that case, police threatened organizers with arrest because people were posting nasty comments under other people’s names, which is a crime in Washington. This year, those running the contest have buttoned up the website and made it less accessible.

“These are pretty smart folks behind this — not doing it on campus,” Niegowski said. They know their first amendment rights. They’re very quiet about who it is and the group behind it.”

And while district officials said they are doing all they can to discourage students from taking part in the contest, some people fear the damage that has already been done.

“People who might already have depression might take it further, and there’s no way to know what’s going on,” student David Mahoney said.