Burley cheerleaders sue principal, superintendent over free speech

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BURLEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Students and parents at Burley High School are suing the administration over violating the students’ First Amendment rights.

Nine former cheerleaders and their parents filed the suit on Monday. In the complaint they said the trouble started when the school hired a new coach in April 2017, citing multiple problems.

The suit said when she cut a girl from the team, Coach Laine Mansfield “prohibited (the team members) from communicating with, associating with, or otherwise talking about (the girl) while at cheerleading practice or in the presence of Mansfield.”

It also said she didn’t take safety concerns seriously, made exceptions to attendance policies for her daughter only, and said the coach degraded them in practice.

The suit said parents tried to meet with school administrators about the coach, but they didn’t feel heard. The girls decided to hold a “peaceful sit-in,” according to the complaint, but two vice principals stopped it within two minutes, telling the girls they would be suspended from the team for a week.

During that suspension, the complaint said the principal gave the suspended girls a list of additional punishments, including an additional two-week suspension from the team, an apology to the coaches and team, a four-hour service project and an essay. The complaint said the list also said the girls were “prohibited from speaking freely about their experience with the coaching staff or on the cheer team in general.” They said if they didn’t sign the letter they were off the team.

The girls returned the letters, signed, but some parents attached a letter saying they reserved the right to participate in the district’s grievance process, the complaint said.

The girls that attached the addendum were kicked off the team.

The lawyer who took on their case said he was shocked when he heard what happened.

“The government, that's the school district and the school system, is essentially telling the students what they should and shouldn't be saying by punishing them when they say things the school or the school district don't like,” said Jeremiah Hudson, a partner in the prosecuting law firm.

He said it wasn’t so much the coach but the way the administration handled it, and now the girls just want to be heard.

“Ultimately they would like to make sure that this type of thing does not happen to them or anyone else in the future,” Hudson said.

A spokesperson for the Cassia County School District said the district has not seen the lawsuit yet and wants to wait to comment until they have.



 
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