The superintendent of a Wisconsin school district has banned cheerleading awards that are said to body-shame members of the squad after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) did an investigation into the “gag” superlatives that were awarded to the women with the biggest “booty” and “boobies.”
In a letter to the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, an attorney representing the Kenosha Unified School District addressed two letters previously sent from the organization and its Wisconsin chapter. In it, the attorney explains that the events outlined in the ACLU’s complaints — which included Tremper High School’s “objectifying awards,” and an issue with another high school’s health curriculum — are not appropriate, and that the district does not condone them.
“The District does not condone those actions and has ensured those actions cease immediately and has taken action to prevent reoccurrence of these events in the future,” the district’s March 27 letter, obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle, reads. “As it relates to the cheerleading awards, the Principal commenced an investigation the very same day the complaint was made.”
According to the ACLU’s latest letter, from Feb. 2019, Tremper Principal Steven Knecht was made aware of the degrading “Big Boobie,” “Big Booty” and “String Bean” awards that were handed out to three cheerleaders in front of over 150 people during their March 2018 banquet, because of an email from another athletic coach who took issue with it. But in response to that concern, in addition to the concerns of parents who followed up, Knecht allegedly said that the awards “were meant to be funny.”
Now, the district is ensuring that the principal and all other school administrators take a different stance.
In addition to the letter sent to the ACLU, district superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis sent a memo to all principals and administrators in the Kenosha Unified School District to announce that the cheerleading awards would be banned, and that the staff would be receiving mandatory training on discrimination and harassment.
“It is important for you to remember that student discrimination and harassment takes many forms. In addition, it can occur in all aspects of the curricular and extracurricular environment,” the letter reads, specifically citing “awards given at a student athletic banquet” as an example. “It is imperative that you make clear to the faculty and staff, whom you supervise, that you will not tolerate actions that constitute student discrimination or harassment.”
The memo went on to outline new district protocol that ensures that no award or recognition violates the policies prohibiting student discrimination and harassment. According to the letter, this includes an “Award/Recognition Request Form” that must be reviewed by the district for any event.
An ACLU attorney, Emma Roth, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the organization is “encouraged by KUSD’s commitment to taking seriously the sexist treatment of its students,” but hopes that the updated policies won’t just be used as a Band-aid.
“We urge the district to hold trainings for all employees on an ongoing basis and address these issues on a holistic level, rather than treat each individual incident in a piecemeal fashion,” she says. “The ACLU will monitor the implementation of these new policies and trainings moving forward.”
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