Parents sue school over girls' nude photo

Parents sue school over girls' nude photo »Play Video
BOTHELL, Wash. -- A nude photograph of two local high school cheerleaders that prompted their suspension from their after-school activity is now at the center of a lawsuit against school officials and the Northshore School District.

Bothell High School suspended the two girls from the cheer squad for the rest of the year as punishment for the nude photo. In response, the girls' parents have filed two separate lawsuits over the school's handling of the situation.

One of the mothers, who KOMO News has chose to identify only as "Kathy," said the photos were the result of a teenage prank. She said her daughter and a friend took nude photos of each other with their cell phones in one of their homes over the summer, then sent one of them to one of the girls' boyfriend.

"I was like, 'what were you thinking?' She (my daughter) goes, ' I wasn't; we just were fooling around. I took a picture, I erased it immediately. I wasn't thinking,'" Kathy said.

But the girls soon realized they had forgotten to erase one of the photos. That lone photo, the girls claim, was sent to the entire football team without their knowledge.

Kathy said the embarrassment her daughter faced was punishment enough.

"Deep down, it bothers her," she said.

According to court documents, school officials learned about the nude photo making its round in June of 2008 and in response issued a letter to parents of cheer squad members stating inappropriate photos will not be tolerated.

Officials told the football coach to advise his players to delete the photo, the documents said. The players were not punished in any way.

In early August, school officials received the nude photo in question in the mail in an unmarked envelope and via text message from an individual they refuse to identify, according to court documents.

But school officials did not contact the girls, her parents until August 26 and the police department until August 29, despite the fact a nude photograph of minors were being circulated among the public, the suits allege. Furthermore, the parents claim school officials shared the photo - a form of child pornography - among each other without permission.

"They should have spoken to and called us. We're just very upset they never addressed those issues with us," she said.

On Sept. 2, the girls were suspended from the cheer squad. The girls' parents soon filed lawsuits accusing the school district and officials of sexual exploitation of children, violation of right to privacy, violation of due process, violation of sexual equality and negligent infliction of emotional distress and outrage.

But the school's attorney says the issue was clear; the girls were suspended because they had violated the cheer squad's code of ethics to which they had agreed.

"Despite the fact that they may have taken these photos in a private setting, they breached that privacy by sharing that information with other individuals that they knew," said attorney Michael Patterson.