A Wisconsin high school is under fire after the cheerleading team’s coach gave end-of-season awards highlighting girls’ bodies, from the “Big Boobie” honor to an accolade for a “Big Booty.”
Tremper High School cheerleading coach Patti Uttech distributed the awards in front of a crowd of about 100 students and parents at the team’s banquet in March 2018. Several parents spoke out after the event, saying they disagreed with Uttech and other coaches’ assertions that the awards were light-hearted and fun.
Several parents told the New York Times that the coach presenting the award joked that the recipient of the “Big Boobie” superlative could concuss herself with her “enormous boobs.” Of the “Big Booty” winner, the coach said, “We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt.” Another prize, the String Bean award, went to a freshman that Uttech said “was so light and skinny.”
Parents have also complained that the coaches use body shaming language during practice, causing some students to come home crying or quit the team altogether.
The Times reports that at least four people wrote letters to Tremper’s principal Steve Knecht, along with Kenosha Unified, to complain about the awards.
“I looked around and thought, ‘Did that just happen?’ 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,” one mother told the Times.
One letter even came from the school’s track coach, Patti Hupp, who wrote, “I feel that I need to tell you this for the protection of these girls,” and that it’s clear “that this is extremely degrading to women.”
Two months after the awards ceremony, the school district’s human resources director at the time sent Uttech a letter asking her to resign and to apologize to the recipients of each award. While she completed the second request, Uttech refused to resign and is currently coaching the squad.
In a letter to Principal Knecht, Uttech reportedly called the awards “a huge hit and truly lots of laughs and fun,” according to the Times.
“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,” she wrote.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Kenosha Unified School District, which oversees Tremper High, said that they are currently investigating the complaints, and that “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.”
But one parent, who is frustrated that Uttech still holds her position as coach, reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union to express their concerns. The organization is currently considering a lawsuit against the school district.
“It is our understanding that coaches hired by the District have engaged in impermissible sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and body shaming of Tremper High School cheerleaders,” the ACLU wrote in a letter sent to Kenosha Unified School District on Tuesday.
This is not the first time the ACLU has reached out to Kenosha administrators. They sent a letter in July alleging that teachers and administrators in the school district are selectively enforcing the dress code against female students. The ACLU said that this, coupled with the cheerleading awards, “send[s] the message to girls that their worth lies in their physical appearance – not their academic or athletic abilities.”
And another school in the district, Bradford High, received complaints in December after teachers showed a video in which a college freshman is drugged and raped — and then presented students with a worksheet that said, “What could have Melissa done differently to have avoided her sexual assault (provide at least 4 examples)?”
“This question squarely places the blame for a sexual assault on the victim, rather than the perpetrator who drugged and raped her,” the ACLU wrote. “Under no circumstance should students be taught that the onus is on them to avoid being sexually assaulted.”
Bradford removed the video from the curriculum after complaints from parents.
The ACLU is threatening to sue Kenosha for violating Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, or sexual harassment, by an educational institution that receives federal funding.
One current cheerleader at Tremper said the awards were embarrassing. “When the girl went up to accept the Big Boobie award, what do you think everyone in the room was looking at? I would’ve died.”
Tremper’s cheerleading coach Uttech is already planning the team’s 2019 banquet. According to a coaches’ note sent Sunday and reviewed by the Times, parents will not be invited.
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