By Emily Ike, SIECUS Program Research Intern
An entire high school cheerleading squad was benched in the Houston-area suburb of Wharton, Texas after putting condoms in “school spirit” bags for the varsity football players before their homecoming game.
While some sexuality education advocates hoped that the squad’s infraction was motivated by a desire to raise awareness about unintended pregnancy or STD transmission, most of those involved insisted that the episode was a joke.
“They just thought it would be funny…cause they are guys and they are girls…you know,” said one junior on the drill team. “It was really a prank gone wrong. I guess. It was a harmless prank that went too far,” said another squad member.
Each year, Wharton High School cheerleaders are tasked with preparing goody bags for the varsity football players before the homecoming game in an effort to raise school spirit. Wharton Independent School District (ISD) administrators charged them with violating the student code of conduct and punished the entire squad with a one-day in-school suspension, as well as benching them from a subsequent Friday night game.
Some parents denounced the administration’s decision as overreach. “If [the students] did that, it was just a joke,” said parent Teresa Holmes. “They need to go on with that and let children be children.” Other parents supported the decision, arguing that ‘inappropriate’ behavior must be addressed regardless of the motive.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of Texas students in grades 9-12 have had sexual intercourse, exceeding the national average. Texas sexuality education law requires schools to stress abstinence, but does not bar schools from teaching about contraception or condoms as long they are taught “in terms of human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates.”
District Superintendent King Davis said that Wharton ISD “takes all student discipline matters seriously [and] our student discipline decisions are based on state law and the Wharton ISD Student Code of Conduct. They are intended to provide proper consequences and teach our students proper behavior.” King remained vague about which specific state law the cheerleaders had violated by providing condoms to their peers.
 “Wharton High School Cheerleaders Benched after Putting Condoms in Spirit Bags,” Houston CBS Sports Radio 610, October 26, 2013, accessed November 13, 2013 at http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/10/26/wharton-high-school-cheerleaders-benched-after-putting-condoms-in-spirit-bags/.
 Jeremy Desel, “Wharton HS Cheerleaders Benched for Putting Condoms in Spirit Bags,” KHOU.com, October 25, 2013, accessed November 13, 2013 at http://www.khou.com/news/local/Wharton-HS-cheerleaders-benched-for-putting-condoms-in-spirit-bags-229319751.html.
 Youth Online: High School YRBS, Texas 2011 Results, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed November 13, 2013 at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Results.aspx?LID=TX.
 Texas Education Code §§ 28.004(e)(1)–(5), accessed November 15, 2013 at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.28.htm#28.004.
 Benjamin Sharp, “Cheerleaders Miss Bellville Game,” Wharton Journal-Spectator, October 30, 2013, accessed November 15, 2013 at http://www.journal-spectator.com/news/article_d4212a64-4196-11e3-bca2-0019bb2963f4.html.