Carrollton Teen Sues Over Petty Cheerleading Beef, Is Laughed Out of Federal Court

Categories: Legal Battles

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How often do federal appeals judges wade into the petty internecine struggles of high-school cheerleaders and their meddling mothers? We're going to go out on a limb and say it's rare. Rare and, when it does occur, deeply entertaining.

In a recent decision, the stately jurists of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit recount a cross between Mean Girls and Bring It On, in which former Creekview High School cheerleader Samantha "Sami" Sanches seeks Title IX relief against the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District for retaliation and sex discrimination. Those are big guns to brandish over the fact that Sami didn't make the varsity squad, and you can practically see the judges' pinched noses and thinly veiled contempt in the opinion's otherwise dry legalese.

"It's a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court," the opinion begins. You can see where this is headed from there. Sami's appeal got tossed with glee last week when the 5th Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case.

Sami's troubles began during her junior year, in March 2008. Predictably, this case's trail can be traced back to a boy -- a senior, in fact -- referred to only as CP. Problem is, CP was the ex-boyfriend of a varsity cheerleader known as JH. Around that time, JH got popped by the principal for posting "inappropriate" Facebook photos and was suspended from cheerleading for a week. JH and Sami had been beefing, so JH suspected Sami's mother, Liz Laningham, of being the snitch.

JH let Sami know it was on. Like, for realz and junk. And when JH found out Sami had been dating CP since spring break, she called her out as a "ho" and threatened to "beat her ass" during sixth-period class. Sami tattled, Laningham raised a stink and school administrators assured her the matter would be investigated. JH was subsequently transferred to another class.

But as far as the overbearing Laningham was concerned, thing wasn't over yet -- not by a long shot. She had her lawyer fire off a six-page missive detailing a laundry list of perceived injustices. To wit:

1. The school did not remove the freshman cheerleading squad captain after she told Sanches she'd kissed her boyfriend. 2 The way the squad chose jump sequences at homecoming was patently unfair. 3. Rank favoritism. 4. The scheduling of the end-of-year banquet for cheerleaders was too favorable to senior girls. 5. Laningham was threatened with a lawsuit by other parents because she failed to return cheerleading videos.

And the list goes on.

By April, though, things took a turn for the dire. Vile machinations were plotted. JH and two other cheerleaders sat in a car outside of Sami's house on the first night of try-outs. They were going to ring-and-run, but Laningham spotted the girls and chased them off. The girls told the assistant principal about their aborted misdeed and were banned from try-outs for a week. In response, nine of the ten varsity cheerleaders quit the team in a show of unity. Sanches, despite the depleted roster, still failed to make varsity.

Smelling foul play, Laningham stepped up her attacks against JH. Sami made a comment in the locker room about a rash on her boob. Laningham claimed to school officials that JH had overheard her and started a rumor about a breast hickey. JH, it later turned out, wasn't even in the locker room at the time.

Predictably, CP eventually broke Sami's heart, and JH wiped her tears in the hallway one day. They were both getting played by CP, she'd later say. To Laningham, that was evidence of a broken school. She filed a formal complaint, claiming that a hostile school environment caused her daughter's failure to make the varsity squad. Sami, she demanded, must be placed on the squad immediately.

Meanwhile, Sami's GPA plummeted (wonder why?). She was diagnosed with depression. A federal lawsuit was filed on her behalf, describing her junior year as a "nightmare of gender-based bullying and harassment." Federal Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney, however, was unmoved by tales of Sami's many hardships. He found for the school district.

Sami's attorneys lambasted Stickney with a semi-coherent rant filed before the 5th Circuit, disregarding the most elemental tenets of professionalism, spelling and subject-verb agreement.

"Usually we do not comment on technical and grammatical errors, because anyone can make a technical mistake, but here the miscues are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them," the opinion says in a hilarious footnote at the end.

Does that mean we shouldn't expect a writ of certiorari from the Supremes?

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95 comments
Burt Fisher
Burt Fisher

I'm surprised they didn't sue for being racist.  Once we saw the word "ho" all up in dat, we know that we are talking about ugly black cheerleaders (UBC) again.

Jack Hammer
Jack Hammer

Only in the cultural vacuum that is Texas would cheerleading become such a major issue.  This is laughable.

Tmramgrl2000
Tmramgrl2000

Another example of people blaming everybody else for their petty problems.  Teenagers of course are going to think it's the end of the world, but a mom?  Really?  That's life, it's only cheerleading.  If that had happened to me in high school my mother would never have taken it that far and would have comforted me and made me realize how petty it is.

Kurt Stallings
Kurt Stallings

I imagine that legal opinion will wind up in any number of red flagged name folders in universities and colleges across the land. Given the way their contracted search services scour the minutiae of social networking sites, an official opinion from one of our nation's more storied and respected federal appellate circuits suggesting cyclonic trouble and disruption to any school who wants to admit those prone to laughably frivolous lawsuits. Stay tuned, as any difficulties the young lady has getting into the school of her choice could result in a lawsuit by her against her mom for gross negligence leading to the situation.  In the meantime, her attorneys can take a course in English grammar and invest in a spell checker for their computer.

CraftsmanDave
CraftsmanDave

I glad the courts threw it out. Jeez can we get to dealing with real issues and not crap like this.

fitzgerald
fitzgerald

Obviously I am somewhat late posting about this after the other 83 have done so.  Nevertheless, everyone involved should get a life.  Wait until the reunions begin and watch the fireworks continue.

Guest
Guest

Tired old helicopter moms trying to reclaim their failed youth while ruining their own daughters in the process.  So sad.

JackP32
JackP32

How about some serious sanctions for the nonsense, like about 30 days in the slammer.

Zendawgsdawg
Zendawgsdawg

thank you all for allowing me to be part of this teenage drama play.  i feel like i have been transported back in time.  now lets all go to the mall and make fun of people. :0

Smail Buzzby
Smail Buzzby

I have never understood why we do not hold attorneys and plaintiffs accountable for what legal actions they bring...if you fined (or even jailed repeat offending) attorneys for filing fraudulent and/or frivolous lawsuits we would NEVER hear about stupidity like this.  Attorneys have to pass a test that says that they understand the basic workings of the law - they should be required to confirm that a case is valid and has merit before bringing it forward.  And they should definitely be held financially accountable when they fail to do this - they are the people who make hundreds of dollars an hour because they are supposed to know about the law.  We need to curb abuse of our legal system, but we cannot because most of our legislators are or were attorneys and they are not interested in changing the system that works so very well for them.

Even though are legal system is a complete joke and it only serves to make those involved wealthy.

LogicDog
LogicDog

"Are" legal system?  You go in for fourth grade spelling and grammar, too?  

For the record, in the Federal system the court has the option of fining attorneys for filing cases which are prima facie malicious or frviolous, in addition to making the losing party pay fees and costs.  It's not clear from the article if they did so in this case.  I agree with you on this point -- this sytem should be adopted in State courts as well, because we have a very litigious society.  Too many people with thin skins and chips on their shoulders.  Crap like this case does not belong in any court -- sell it to the tabloids.

Eric Redmond
Eric Redmond

You understand they do have to pay "court costs", which pays for all material, fees, clerks, etc.

guest
guest

Finally some sanity in our judicial system.  I hope these idiots were forced to pay the court costs and the taxpayers were spared this foolishness.  M

john
john

Mom has Toddlers and Tiaras syndrome

woo
woo

My 14-year old cheered in middle school.  When I asked if she were going to try out in high school she said she'd had enough of that drama.  Her friends think she's crazy but she says she'd rather watch the games than cheer.  Cool with me since I got sick of the politics, backbiting etc. I am way too lazy to be a stage mom.   Looks like a whole lot of work.

The Mantis
The Mantis

I love when my high school makes national news hahahaha

Guest
Guest

I know right... She was my neighbor too..

Maleahmac
Maleahmac

i think these teens need to learn to focus on their school work. teens shouldnt be out there having sex or b/f or g/f's. and the parents may i say should be trying to keep their children away from boys/girls and sex. the parents should be teaching the children theres a lot more to life than partying kissing and having sex. theres ur school work. theres jobs out there. theres friends. theres family.

Lancaster
Lancaster

That's right, kids. No social life for you. Feh. Obviously there's more to life than partying and dating, and most everyone knows that. But God forbid they be allowed to have fun and meet people.

Made in England
Made in England

A very well-written article, Mr. Hargrove. Though the material is almost uproariously satirical, I was quite entertained by your take on things. Bravo!

Kaley Wu
Kaley Wu

Texas Cheer Squads across the board are by far and large  mothers that are suffering from departed youth syndrome. Growing up in the central Texas of McGregor and attending high school in the early 2000's we had to deal with one such mom very much like this nut case..Our wack job was ridiculous in showing up for EVERY cheer practice in her 20 year old former tryout suits (former MHS Cheerleader herself), following in complete detail with every cheer made, was known to walk around town going through "Air Cheers" and wouldn't hesitate to storm into a  cheer practice and terrorize her poor daughter if she made the slightest perceived error..The thing is, that poor Meggy did not want to be a cheerleader, star softball player or anything athletic. I remember one time when we all sneaked in to Waco and went to a Pizza Hut. She was terrified her mother would find out she ate pizza in violation of her diet..There's your typical Cheer Mom.CheerleaderMHS Class of 2003

Terrytarkington
Terrytarkington

Parents are dumb to raise their children with out blame or fault of any kind. Prisons are full of people raised this way. "It's not my fault".

Jsmithe447
Jsmithe447

This is just plain crazy and insane, and I feel that I have become more stupid from just reading about this story.

Randy Smith
Randy Smith

ONLY in texas ...

Kayra42
Kayra42

Oh, I'm sure ridiculous things like this, Mr. Smith, NEVER happen at the annual Natchez Pilgrimage.

Krobinson00
Krobinson00

Not at all. I cheered and coached in Maryland my entire life and as Cheer_Mom pointed out, I would be on a team of a bunch of great girls with that one crazy Mother, who in high school never made the team herself, and always thought her daughter should be the flyer (or top of the pyramid in laymans terms) regardless of ability and talent. Once we discovered these mother's and girls' they were not welcomed back for the next season of try-outs.

Cheer_Mom
Cheer_Mom

My daughter was a member of the same cheer squad at the time all of this was going on. Please understand that this is a few members of a larger group of students. The majority of the cheerleaders at this school are good students, kind and compassionate individuals and they do a lot for the school and for various organizations. Please don't judge the entire program because of a few. Every program has it's problems.

txnomad
txnomad

Awww, mommy is upset that her daughter wasn't chosen to shake her T&A at everyone?  Gee, how sad!

Les
Les

Wouldn't you love to be one of these kids teachers? As it goes now, teachers are forced to give grades because, God forebid, these angels actually do any work. So, before you complain about the educational system, reread this article and picture this mom at a parent - teacher conference.

David
David

Why is anyone surprised?!? High School football is THE biggest boondoggle in Texas, and the cheerleading squad goes with it. Parents in Texas will steal, cheat, lie, maim, even kill one another over their little Johnnie or Susie's status on the football team/cheerleading squad. Ironic that Texas has one of the highest drop-out rates in the nation too! 

Kayra42
Kayra42

I don't know what part of Texas you're living in, but I was born and raised in Texas and only a few outlandish incidents have happened ... and none while I was teaching.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

Ending the school's cheerleading program would end this drama.The money saved could go to the chess club or the math club - where they behave better.

Poker Lover 17
Poker Lover 17

Excellent point. After all, high school, despite all its pageantry and social distractions masquerading as "extra-curricular activities," is most importantly an educational experience. For all that the institutions of football, basketball, and cheerleading generally steal from these young lives educationally, I have long argued that their funding be diverted to intellectually instructive activities, that we may have schools which function as a "3M for minds ('We don't make minds, we make them better')" rather than factories churning out future generations of cruel, vain, judgmental, and vacuous devils.

Another guest
Another guest

Maybe I'm wrong, but Sanders sounds like he is just be sarcastic.  If so, I personally think it's quite funny!

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

A teeny tiny itsy bitsy amount of school funds go towards a cheerleading program. Cheerleaders pay for their uniforms, practice wear, warmups, poms, shoes, camp, choreography, travel, competition fees, spirit gifts, etc., etc., etc. out of their own pockets. If you were to look at the costs covered by school versus parents, I'd bet the math and chess clubs have a higher percentage. (And, have you seen math club drama? Good grief, it can get nasty, too! It's just not as public)

Cheer_Mom
Cheer_Mom

Why ruin it for everybody because of a few idiots. Would you be saying the same thing if we were talking about football players?

Philme
Philme

i would say the same thing about football players!  you should play your little games on your own time and not on the school's dolllar!

John Doe
John Doe

Hahaha.  Want to hear a good one?  Her aunt was Playmate of the Year some time ago.  Stacy Sanches.  That's the good, quality genetics at work here.

Its so sad
Its so sad

hot, hot, hot! One of my favorites!

sb
sb

I'm calling "narcissistic mom" on this one. The kid will be lucky to ever even figure out that she needs therapy.

(Also: "beefing"? really? kids don't say that, do they?)

Guest
Guest

Dont mess with Texas. Because it's cruel to pick on_retards

Poker Lover 17
Poker Lover 17

Nicely put. Bumper sticker fodder if ever i've seen it. Lmfao

LaceyB
LaceyB

This is one of the best items ever!! A meddling mother! Facebook! Catty clawing and girlfighting over the internet (not to mention, on a stakeout)! Much of it over a boy!

It's really horrible that it got as far as it did. But, why didn't Robert write this--with all his pom-pom experience and knowledge of the field? http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

DARNELL
DARNELL

AHAHAHAHAHAHAH.... AHAHAHAHA

D1P1
D1P1

By the way, has anyone ever thought that darling little Sami just wasn't good enough to be a varsity cheerleader?  Is mama going to go job interviews with her and sue when they won't hire her lil darling?.

Cheer_Mom
Cheer_Mom

My child cheered with her and that is exactly why she didn't make the squad. She was a level 2 cheerleader and that year we had several level 4 and level 5 cheerleaders trying out. Not only was she a level 2 cheerleader, but one that had done no running tumbling all year long and somehow hoped she would be able to make the squad when trying out against several accomplished tumblers. Hindsight is 20/20 and I have a feeling the girl would have spent some more time in the gym prior to tryouts if she knew then what she knows now.

D1P1
D1P1

She probably thought that she didn't need to practice any - mama would just handle it for her.  Wonder where she is and what she is doing now since she is out of high school.  Anyone know?

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

My husband has had parents call and complain about their kids performance reviews and argue when their precious Johnnys didn't get a raise. Even demanding to speak to HR and file a formal greivance against my husband. OH, and I love when they call their child in sick. Was this high school kids? NOPE. Professionals (term used loosely) in their LATE 20s!

LaceyB
LaceyB

I've heard about this disturbing trend as well. I may not be in the workplace, as of yet, but, lemme tell you, as a business school grad, there was nothing in our curriculum about "If you don't like your situation, have your parents call your boss and discuss the matter for you."

Ridunculous.

LaceyB
LaceyB

Are you hiring full-time insured? Part-time insured? No? We have a small little thing called a recession going on in this country. I've run my own business for the last 5 years. Ready to move on to something where I do not run the company.

shockedi tellya
shockedi tellya

You are a business school GRAD and 'not in the workplace, as of yet"?

D1P1
D1P1

I believe that the perfomance review should have a subject of discussion called "grow up and stand on your own".  To me, these 30 year old kiddies would be prime candidates for downsizing.

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