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Poms Away

Texas cheerleader gets snubbed in court

By declining to review a two-year-old freedom of speech case, the U.S. Supreme Court last week provided an unfulfilling legal coda to the case of a then 16-year-old Texas high school cheerleader who was kicked off of her squad for refusing to chant the name of an athlete whom she said had raped her four months earlier (SI, Nov. 8, 2010). "We had a slim chance to be heard, but when the decision came down, it didn't make it any less disheartening," says the father of the now 18-year-old, known as Hillaire S. in court documents. "My daughter has fought through it all."

In October 2008, Hillaire told police that Rakheem Bolton, then 17, was one of three teens who sexually assaulted her at a party in the small Texas town of Silsbee. By September 2010, Bolton would plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, but in between the allegations and court dates he continued to play basketball for Silsbee High. When Bolton went to the foul line in February 2009, Hillaire, a cheerleader for the school, folded her arms and stepped back in a silent protest—the act for which she was later dismissed. Hillaire's parents sued the school, but a federal appeals court ruled last September that, as a cheerleader, Hillaire was a mouthpiece for the school and her speech was not protected.

While awaiting the Supreme Court outcome, Hillaire, who plans to attend a local college, remained in Silsbee, living with community scrutiny. Was it worth it? Yes, says her father, who must now pay the school district some $45,000 in court costs. "If she had not fought, no one would have known what went on. By fighting, she didn't let them get away with it so easy."