Here’s what’s legendary about the great Texas Cheerleader Scandal of 2007. It’s not just that you have teen-aged high school girls behaving very badly. (“Boozing, bikinis and bullying,” wrote Newsweek.) It’s that you also had parents behaving badly. (“Cheerleading mess a team effort”, wrote The Dallas Morning News.) It turned into a morality lesson in more ways than one.
Because one of the five cheerleaders was the principal’s daughter…
What did they do that was so horrible? In December of 2006, a Dallas attorney was hired to investigate. After conducting 75 interviews – with coaches, parents, students, and school administrators – he compiled a report which was shared with the Dallas Morning News. Five cheerleaders became so popular that they dominated the cheerleading squad. But “the Fab Five” was also dominating their classrooms. And soon, the newspaper reports, they’d even taken control of the adult authority figures around them.
“They walked out of classes. They wore low-cut tops banned by the dress code. They posed for salacious pictures and posted them on MySpace. And the adults in their lives – from parents to teachers to administrators – did little to stop them.”
In one notorious incident, a cheerleader pulled out her cellphone during class, and began having a phone conversation. When the teacher told her to stop, she replied: “Shut up! I’m talking to my mom.”
The cheerleaders would skip school or get caught drinking alcohol – and in one notorious incident, a cheerleader even made an obscene gesture at the adult who was sponsoring the cheerleading program. When the sponsor attempted to respond with discipline, she received push-back from the cheerleader’s mom – who was also the school’s principal. “I was called a liar, crazy, on meds,” she remembers in the investigator’s report. Her conclusion? The school principal “tried to ruin my life over this.”
For all the naughtiness of the cheerleaders, McKinney, Texas had apparently spawned something even more misguided: five cheerleader moms who allowed it to happen. The next sponsor was the victim of even more nasty pranks. Her cellphone was stolen by the cheerleaders, who then sent dirty text messages to her husband – and to another coach. The cheerleaders claimed they’d been instructed that “Sex sells” by their sponsor as they prepped for a pep rally.
Investigator Harry Jones complained that the parents were apparently so proud of their popular teenaged daughters, that they never told them no. “Kids will be kids – but adults have to be adults.” In fact, he seemed to lay much of the blame on overzealous parents who defended their daughters’ from any school discipline.
On MySpace, one parent discovered photos of the cheerleaders at a kegger. And at a condom store. Holding a bottle of alcohol. Flashing their underwear. “Quite frankly, I personally found it ‘creepy’ to look at the photographs,” the investigator wrote in his report.
Sponsor Michaela Ward and principal Linda Theret took some steps to address the incident, with Ward threatening to kick the girls off the squad if they violated any more school rules. “Good luck with that,” one cheerleader replied. And within three days, four of the five girls were caught cutting class. And then they rolled up late to the homecoming dance – in a limo, apparently drunk.
But in the end, these five high school teenagers became symbols of an obsession with popularity, and ultimately their nationally-recognized shame was even turned into a movie – a made-for-TV melodrama on the Lifetime channel. (“The true story finally told. Everyone knew them. The whole town feared them. What they got away with became a national scandal. Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal….”) “The unnamed high school, which every alert citizen in these parts knows represents McKinney North High, is depicted as a kind of gulag-in-reverse,” wrote the Dallas Morning News, “where timid, fog-headed school employees and frightened, snake-charmed students are humiliated and bullied into submission by a cadre of teenage girls as greedy and sadistic as rampaging Visigoths.”
“It’s a pretty dumb movie…but then, it’s based on a pretty dumb real-life situation.”