A Wisconsin High School is making headlines this week after a cheerleading award ceremony turned into a body shaming frenzy.
At Tremper High School’s annual cheerleading banquet last March, some parents did a double-take when the coaches announced several unconventional awards.
The New York Times reports:
There was the Big Boobie award for the girl with the biggest breasts. 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 went to a freshman who, as the Tremper cheerleading coach Patti Uttech later told school administrators, “was so light and skinny.”
I’m sorry, WHAT?!
Parents who attended the event told The New York Times they were “uncomfortable” with the accolades.
“I looked around and thought, ‘Did that just happen?’ If my daughter would have won one of those awards, I would’ve absolutely been rushing the stage. It was just so wrong, in so many ways,” one mother told the newspaper.
Tremper High School Principal, Steve Knecht, was reportedly contacted about the awards by several other coaches, including former Track and Field Coach, Patti Hupp.
“I feel that I need to tell you this for the protection of these girls,” Hupp wrote in an email to Mr. Knecht, explaining that it did not take “much to see that this is extremely degrading to women.”
When Principal Knecht addressed the issue with Uttech, she explained that the awards were not ill-intentioned. They were first started in 2017 by the senior class, who picked them because of the things cheerleaders are required to do every day in their sport.
“They are always getting butts in their faces and other body parts,” Uttech told school administrators, according to The New York Times.
The coach was asked to resign in May 2018, and administrators cautioned that if she wanted to continue being a part of the team, it should be in a behind-the-scenes capacity. Uttech apologized to the girls but refused to resign.
Taking a Stand
Outraged parents of the teens contacted the American Civil Liberties Union following the ceremony, saying they were dissatisfied with the response from school administrators.
On Tuesday the group sent a formal warning to the Kenosha Unified School District that it may file a lawsuit saying that the district had “failed to take any meaningful corrective action” in the case.
According to the A.C.L.U., the coaches had continued to make inappropriate comments to the girls, including using “harassing language towards cheerleaders during practices.” The group said the district was enabling sexual harassment and in doing so was violating federal nondiscrimination and equal protection laws.
The district has been asked to appropriately discipline the cheerleading coaches, and to institute mandatory anti-harassment training for all district employees. Failure to do so will result in the organization filing a lawsuit.
“It’s so important that we intervene at a young age and girls are taught their worth and are treated equally,” said Emma Roth, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U. Women’s Rights Project. “When that doesn’t happen, they carry this message for the rest of their life.”
In an email sent out on Monday, school district spokeswoman Tanya Ruder said that “a clear expectation has been set that awards of this nature are not acceptable and are not to be given at Tremper cheerleading banquets going forward.” She added, “As far as the investigation, we are not at liberty to share personnel matters.”
The mother who initially made contact with the A.C.L.U. to ask for its help said she simply wanted “these girls to be treated with respect. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.”
Tremper High will hold this year’s cheerleading banquet next month, according to a coach’s note to the team on Sunday. Only cheerleaders and coaches — no parents — are invited.