As the song tells us, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” So it’s understandable that S.J., (soon to be known as “the Plaintiff”) and her four friends were having a great time in the car on their way to dinner to celebrate their selection to the cheerleading squad. Wearing the new cheer shirts they had just been given, the girls accompanied Big Sean as he sang “I.D.F.W.U.”
Singing with Big Sean was fun! Recording it on someone’s cell was even more fun!! And posting an eight-second video on SnapChat was the best!!!
The Dawg is blissfully unaware of who Big Sean is and has never heard this piece of music. But the court quotes some of the lyrics that were recorded in the video and posted on social media:
I don’t f*** with you, you stupid little a** b****, I ain’t f****** with you.
Oh my. It occurs to me that if they would have chosen “Doe a Deer” from the Sound of Music instead, we would not be talking about it. But I digress. Let’s get back to the legal issues.
S.J. deleted this post thirty minutes after posting it, but it was too late. Other students had seen it and one of them, a former cheerleader with a sense of propriety, reported it to school administrators the next day.
The school officials kicked all five girls off the squad, but swiftly reversed course with the other four. Those four had sung and appeared in S.J.’s video, but they did not post it. Moreover, they promptly expressed remorse and accepted the conditions for reinstatement that the school offered: an apology, 50 hours of community service, and a statement on appropriate social media usage.
S.J., backed up by her parents, stonewalled. She maintained she had done nothing wrong. The lyrics were vulgar, but they were sung in a private vehicle away from school. It’s all Free Speech. The posting on SnapChat happened accidentally. Nothing was her fault.
The school administrators did not buy any of that, so they removed S.J. from the cheerleading squad.
The lawsuit sought an injunction to restore S.J. to the squad and prohibit any future discipline over this incident. In an opinion that went on way longer than necessary, the court denied the injunction. The court held that the Plaintiff was unlikely to succeed on the merits of her case, and had not suffered “irreparable” harm. The cheerleader constitution was not so vague as to be unconstitutional. So the school won this round.
I’m supposed to tell you about cases like this from the legal point of view. But when I read a case like this I find myself being more parental than lawyerly. What the hell are this girl’s parents thinking? These new cheerleaders were told not to blab about making the squad until the official announcement was made the next day. They were also told that cheerleaders were held to a high standard, and that all use of social media was expected to be appropriate. Especially while wearing Mountain Crest Cheerleader shirts.
It was right after they were informed of this—RIGHT AFTER--that they went all karaoke in the car with Big Sean. Sheesh. On top of that, S.J. was also offered an opportunity to get back on the squad if she would comply with conditions similar to those the other four girls agreed to. Nope.
We clog up our courts and run up unnecessary costs with silly cases like this, claiming “irreparable harm” for a consequence that was both minor and self-inflicted. We expect teachers and administrators to encourage kids to develop good values. We expect them instill and nurture those values. But some parents choose to fight when schools attempt to hold their children to those values.
I say again: Sheesh.
The case is Johnson v. Cache County School District, decided by the federal court for Utah on July 3, 2018. We found it at 323 F.Supp.3d 1301, at 358 Education Law Reporter 278.
DAWG BONE: SHEESHEROOSKI.
Tomorrow: a TOMA case from Pampa, Texas.