KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin high school is ending cheerleading awards given annually to girls with the largest breasts or buttocks – dubbed “Big Booty” and “Big Boobie” – after the American Civil Liberties Union demanded action following repeated complaints from parents and a former coach to school and district officials.
Coaches at Tremper High School in the Kenosha Unified School District give out awards each year recognizing the most improved or hardest-working cheerleaders. In at least the past two years, they have also given what they called gag awards, according to the ACLU of Wisconsin. Those awards also included one in 2018 for “String Bean” – the thinnest team member.
The ACLU, which sent a letter Tuesday demanding that the district discipline staff involved with the awards, said emails and other documents it obtained during a yearlong investigation showed the awards were handed out at a banquet attended by about 100 people, including coaches, family members and friends of students.
Details about the awards banquet were first reported by the New York Times.
Among those who complained was former track coach Patti Hupp. She emailed Tremper principal Steve Knecht last year to express her concerns after a parent notified her about the awards.
“I don’t think it takes much to see that this is extremely degrading to women,” Hupp said in the email to Knecht.
Knecht told cheerleading coaches in an April 28 email that he would launch an investigation into the awards after receiving complaints from four different people. He later told a parent who followed up that he had found no evidence of wrongdoing. When the parent asked for justification, he wrote in a letter that the awards “were meant to be funny” and the coaches were “just joking around.”
District spokeswoman Tanya Ruder said “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.” However, the Times reported that a coach sent a note to the team on Sunday about this year’s awards banquet that said only cheerleaders and coaches are invited.
Hupp also emailed a cheerleading coach, Patti Uttech, on April 24 to express 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.
Uttech said she didn’t see a problem.
“I honestly don’t feel that I need to explain myself about how we ran our banquet,” she said in her email response. “Actually we have run it this way for years and have never had a problem.”
A human resources official met with Uttech a month after that email and directed her to write letters of apology to students and to resign by June 14, according to the documents obtained by the ACLU. However, Uttech has continued coaching the cheerleading squad, the ACLU said.
Ruder said the school district could not discuss personnel matters.
Hupp told the Kenosha News that she was not just disappointed with the school district.
“I’m disgusted with the cheer coaches and with the Kenosha parents that sat there and said and did nothing,” Hupp said.
This story has been corrected to show that the ACLU asserts the so-called gag awards were given in 2017 and 2018, rather than at least the past five years.