A Wisconsin high school is under fire after an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that it body-shamed members of its cheerleading squad by handing out “gag” awards like “Big Booty Judy” and “Big Boobie Strube” at its banquet last March, Kenosha News reports.
“We love her butt,” a coach from Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis. says in a video of the 2018 event as the “Big Booty Judy” award was presented to one cheerleader. “Everybody loves her butt.”
The New York Times reports that a freshman described as “so light and skinny” was given the “String Bean” award, while a coach joked that the “Big Boobie Strube” recipient could get a concussion if she ran on account of her “enormous boobs.” Similar awards were also reportedly handed out in previous years, with the 2017 banquet giving a cheerleader a blond wig for being “ditzy.”
Now the ACLU has threatened to sue the Kenosha Unified School District for not taking action after parents and a former coach complained about what the organization has called a “humiliating exercise in body shaming.”
”I don’t think it takes much to see that this is extremely degrading to women,” Patti Hupp, a former Tremper track coach, wrote principal Steve Knecht last year in an email that turned up in the ACLU investigation.
Hupp also contacted the cheerleading coaches directly last April about her concerns.
“The last thing these high school girls need is a fellow woman in their lives communicating to them that they are objects or that their appearance is something to be gawked at, demeaned, laughed at or even awarded for that matter,” Hupp wrote at the time in an email.
But Patti Uttecht, the cheer coach she emailed, defended the banquet.
“I honestly don’t feel that I need to explain myself about how we ran our banquet,” Uttecht responded to Hupp. “Actually we have run it this way for years and have never had a problem.”
According to the Times, Uttecht explained to school officials that the awards were appropriate because the cheerleaders “are always getting butts in their faces and other body parts.” She also told administrators that the awards here a “huge hit” and emailed Knecht that “we understand that we are in a politically correct world these days, but we do like to have fun and keep thing on the lighter side.”
And while Knecht acknowledged that he had received complaints about the objectifying awards, he later said that he could find no wrongdoing, telling a parent that they “were meant to be funny.” He added that the coaches were “just joking around.”
Records show that Knecht also kept Uttecht on as the cheer coach despite a human resources official’s recommendation that she resign. Though Uttecht apologized to the girls targeted by the awards, she declined to resign and continues to coach the squad.
“I’m disgusted with the cheer coaches and with the Kenosha parents that sat there and said and did nothing,” Hupp told Kenosa News of the incident.
While one parent reportedly joked about their daughter winning the “Big Boobie” award, others have spoken out.
“I looked around and thought, ‘Did that just happen?’” an unidentified Tremper mom told the Times. “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.”
The ACLU, which also accused the coaches of using “harassing” language about the cheerleaders’ bodies, is demanding that school staff undergo anti-harassment training. For the time being, a school district spokeswoman confirmed that the cheerleading banquet will no longer include the controversial awards.
“In regards to the Tremper incident, 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,” chief communications officer Tanya Ruder told Yahoo Lifestyle. “As for the investigation, we are not at liberty to share personnel matters.”
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