CACHE COUNTY, Utah — A student at Mountain Crest High School has filed a lawsuit alleging her rights were violated when she was kicked off the cheerleading team over a video posted to social media of her and others singing along to a song with profane lyrics.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday, the teen’s father is suing on her behalf and alleges her constitutional rights were violated and that the school’s punishment represents a double standard when compared to punishments for male athletes.
The lawsuit states the incident occurred on March 15 of this year around 8 p.m. as the plaintiff and four other female students from Mountain Crest High School were driving around and celebrating having made the cheerleading team earlier that day.
The lawsuit says one teen connected her phone to the car stereo and hit shuffle, which played a song called “I.D.F.W.U.” by Big Sean. The girls began to sing along and the defendant recorded about 8 seconds of video on her phone.
During that recording the girls were sing along to the lyrics of the song, which are: “I don’t f— with you, you little stupid a– b—, I ain’t f—— with you.”
The lawsuit says the lyrics were not directed at anyone in particular and that the defendant meant to save the video to her phone but inadvertently saved the footage to her private Snapchat story, where about 30 of her contacts were able to see the video. The teen realized her mistake and deleted the video about 30 minutes later, the lawsuit states.
The next week the girls were told to meet with school administrators, who said the lyrics contained profanity and thus the girls were being dismissed from the cheerleading team for “improper social media usage” under the cheer and stunt team’s constitution.
While four of the five girls were given paths to reinstatement, the lawsuit says the defendant was initially not offered such a path to returning to the team.
The lawsuit further claims the school treats male athletes differently.
“For example, during the Fall of 2016, a male football player at Mountain Crest High School was criminally charged with distributing sexual photographs and materials via text message,” the lawsuit states. “This is a clear violation of the school’s code and Constitution. The football player’s punishment was a two-game suspension. No extra tasks, punishments, or other requirements were given before he was allowed to continue playing for the team.”
The lawsuit alleges that Title IX Coordinator Kirk McRae responded to that complaint by stating cheerleaders are held to a higher standard than football players and compared them to members of student government.
Appeals for the teen’s reinstatement were initially denied, but ultimately a school superintendent gave the plaintiff a path back to the cheer team. She would have been required to complete 50 hours of service, apologize to the cheer team, prepare a research based presentation on improper social media usage and meet with school leaders about moving forward.
The teen’s father says they “refused to accept punishment for [plaintiff’s] protected free speech.”
The lawsuit argues the teen’s speech was protected because it occurred off campus and outside school hours and was not directed at any person in particular. It argues that punishing her for such speech violates her First Amendment rights. The lawsuit further argues that the discrepancy in punishment for male and female athletes violates both the teen’s Fourteenth Amendment rights and her rights under Title IX.
The lawsuit asks a judge to find the actions and policies of the school in violation of the teen’s rights, and they seek an order reinstating the teen to the cheerleading team and allowing her to participate in all associated activities.
The Utah Legal Clinic is representing the teen and issued a statement about the lawsuit Friday, saying in part:
“This is not an instance in which this young woman was engaging in hate speech or bullying, this was a teenager singing along to a song on the radio with her friends and that song happened to have curse words in it. And because she did what young people do today and recorded it, she is being punished by a policy that is clearly over broad and we believe applied unfairly in this case.”
Fox 13 News has reached out to Cache County School District for a response and will update this story as more details emerge.
The full statement from the Utah Legal Clinic is embedded below: