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Judge won’t order cheerleader reinstated in free-speech case

July 24, 2018

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — A Utah cheerleader who claimed her school violated her freedom of speech when it booted her from the squad over a profane video posted on social media won’t be reinstated while her lawsuit over the decision plays out.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball’s ruling said the case raises “very interesting First Amendment issues for our social media age,” The Herald Journal in Logan reported .

Still, he said she and her parents have refused the school’s offer to let her come back under conditions that include an apology and community service. The girl is referred to as S.J. in court documents.

“SJ is being restricted from the activity of her choice because she does not believe she should have conditions placed on her return,” Kimball said in the ruling last month. “However, she could have already rejoined the squad by completing the conditions set by the school.”

Her lawyer Angela Elmore told the Associated Press Monday the girl refused because she believes the school shouldn’t control her private speech, a cause that’s bigger than a year of cheerleading.

The girl was removed from the Mountain Crest High School team after she posted a video in March on Snapchat of her and other cheerleaders singing along to a rap song that included swear words.

Corey Johnson filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of his daughter after appeals to school administration and the Cache County School District failed. The suit claims the video was posted by mistake, and school officials dismissed her from the team merely because of the profanity used in the video.

The suit also claims the punishment was gender discrimination because a football player disciplined because of text messages was not given an equal punishment.

According to court documents filed by the school district, the cheer adviser had instructed all potential cheerleaders before tryouts about proper social media usage, advising them to avoid posting derogatory or explicit comments.

“She explained to the potential cheerleaders that there was a history of inappropriate social media usage by Mountain Crest cheerleaders and it had escalated the sometimes violent rivalry Mountain Crest had with its neighboring school, Ridgeline, and created conflict with Mountain Crest,” court records stated.

The suit is seeking financial compensation and a court declaration that the cheerleader’s constitutional rights were violated.


Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com

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