How much control, if any, should school officials to be able to maintain over the conduct of student athletes when they are not at school?
That seems to be the question at hand in a lawsuit filed today by two former Seneca High School cheerleaders. Named as defendants in the action are members of the R-7 Board of Education and Principal Tosha Fox.
The cheerleaders, one of whom was the captain, say they were unfairly removed from the squad by Ms. Fox, according to the petition. On June 10, they were "informed they would be removed from the cheer squad immediately."
They were being disciplined, according to the lawsuit, "for conduct alleged to have occurred off district property when the school was not in session."
The lawsuit says Ms. Fox singled out the students in an interview with the Seneca News-Dispatch and at an assembly of students in August and that she tried to have the students sign a bullying contract. Nowhere in the lawsuit does it describe what transgressions the former cheerleaders allegedly committed. When KSNF broke the story this afternoon, it was reported that school officials told the television station that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the hazing incident involving Seneca football players at a camp at Pittsburg State University, but coincidentally, the cheerleaders were removed from the squad at almost the exact time the hazing allegations were leveled.
The bullying contract the cheerleaders said they were asked to sign is part of the new policy implemented by the school board following the hazing incidents.
It would appear that the allegations against the cheerleaders may have come from something posted on the internet.
One of the students, referred to as "P. A." in the lawsuit says the actions of the principal and board:
-Included removal of her position as cheer captain
-Threat of preclusion from her position as a top All-American Cheerleader
-She was removed as FFA vice president
-Her position on the National Honor Society was threatened.
-She was alienated from other students and from her fellow cheerleaders
-She was precluded from receiving certain scholarships.
The other student, referred to as K. E. also referred to her removal from the cheerleading squad, alienation from students and from her fellow cheerleaders.
Both say the actions of the defendants have been harmful to their "learning environment."
They say their constitutional rights of free speech, association, and privacy have been violated.
They are asking for "fair and reasonable damages," punitive damages, attorney fees, costs, and expenses.