The timeline of events is not controversial, yet Think Progress simply can't or won't present the facts accurately. And the facts do seem to matter. From their summary:
According to court documents, H.S. was 16 when she was raped at a house party by one of her school’s star athletes, Rakheem Bolton. Bolton was arrested, but by pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault, he received a reduced sentence of probation and community service. Bolton was allowed to return to school and resume his place on the basketball team. Four months later, H.S. was cheering with her squad at a game when Bolton lined up to take a free throw. The squad wanted to do a cheer that included his name, but H.S. refused, choosing instead to stand silently with her arms folded.
“I didn’t want to have to say his name and I didn’t want to cheer for him,” she latertold reporters. “I just didn’t want to encourage anything he was doing.”
Several school officials of the “sports obsessed” small town took issue with H.S.’s silence, and ordered her to cheer for Bolton. When H.S. refused again, she was expelled from the cheerleading squad. Her family decided to sue school officials and the district. Their lawyer argued that H.S.’s right to exercise free expression had been violated and that students shouldn’t be punished for not complying with “insensitive and unreasonable directions.”
I am very sympathetic to her desire to not cheer, but...
In reality, Bolton was not playing basketball after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault.
But when a grand jury declined to indict him in January, Bolton was allowed to rejoin the basketball team. He was legally innocent until proven guilty and an arm of the state had determined it would not prosecute.
The brief timeline is this:
Oct 2008 - drunken party, assault, arrest, Bolton suspended from football team.
January 2009 - grand jury declines to indict, Bolton re-instated, rejoins basketball team.
February 2009 - cheerleader declines to cheer for the alleged rapist.
November 2009 - Bolton indicted, kicked off football team and out of school.
September 2010 - Bolton takes plea deal.
With actual, rather than imagined facts in hand, one can see how school officials might worry that their representative, the cheerleader, is re-opening an assault allegation dropped by the state. Could they be sued for slander? I don't know; it would be interesting to speculate as to what legal advice the school might have received on that point.
Obviously, the school officials ought to have given the situation thirty seconds of reflection prior to sending the athlete and the cheerleader out to the same venue, and they should have come up with a sensible solution.
PILING ON: Mark Kleiman of The Reality Based Community has the same facts as Think Progress:
A high-school cheerleader reports being raped by a star athlete. The athlete is allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault, and returns to playing. The cheerleader refuses to cheer for him. The school district bounces her from the cheerleading squad. Her parents sue to have her reinstated.
Since he eventually concludes that the court decisions are defensible, I guess the real facts won't change his mind.
MORE PILING ON: "ABL" at Balloon Juice claims to have researched this, but the recap doesn't show it:
So, to recap: a girl was gang-raped by by three assailants at a party attended by dozens of students***, one of whom was a student athlete named Rakheem Bolton. Bolton plead to misdemeanor assault, received two years of probation, community service, a fine, was required to complete anger management classes, after which he was permitted to return to school and continue to play basketball. Rather than quit the team in shame, like all good little rape victims should, the girl decided to maintain her position on the squad. And when it came time to cheer for Bolton as he stood poised to shoot a free-throw, the girl thought “fuck that noise!” and stood silently, arms crossed.
And for her quiet dignified protest, she was thrown off the squad and has been ordered to scrounge up a cool 45 grand.
The invaluable James Joyner fluffs the facts but grudgingly supports the court decision:
TP’s account of the facts is accurate.
Although he also notes:
Not legally relevant but noteworthy: Bolton had been convicted of no crime at the time of the incident; the assault plea came later.
Well, it's not just that the assault plea came later - the initial grand jury had declined to indict.
Finally, Eugene Volokh marshalls the facts and explains the law.