Online protests are raising awareness and money for a former Texas high school cheerleader who said she was sexually assaulted by the school's star basketball player and then kicked off her squad for refusing to cheer for him.
The former cheerleader, who is only referred to as H.S. in court documents, claimed she was raped by Rakheem Bolton under a pool table during an October 2008 party while she was drunk. Bolton and two others were arrested after the party. Bolton eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault. Charges were dropped against the two others.
H.S., who was 16 at the time of the attack, was suspended from the Silsbee High School cheerleading squad for two weeks for refusing to cheer. Now the 19-year-old and her family owe nearly $40,000 in fees after losing a lawsuit against the school district over her punishment.
But an online petition has gathered more than 95,000 signatures urging the school superintendent to waive the fees.
"The school district must not force a student victim to pay them over $35,000 for simply standing against making a survivor applaud her rapist," said Alex DiBranco, women's rights editor at Change.org, the website that created the petition. "[She] and her family deserve whatever justice they can receive at this late date, but in particular, they want to make certain that no other teenage assault survivor will face the same treatment at the hands of Silsbee High School."
In addition to the petition, fundraising efforts through Facebook, Twitter and other online campaigns have collected over $23,000 to put towards the woman's fees.
H.S. accused Silsbee High School, the school district and several school officials of being insensitive after her sexual assault -- especially after Bolton and the others investigated in connection with the attack returned to school. She said she was told to stay clear of the boys and to avoid the cafeteria where she was the subject of taunting chants by other students.
"It frustrates me," H.S. said. "All I've wanted out of this all along is for somebody to say they've done wrong." She said, however, that the fight is worth it, if only to give other rape victims a reason to stand up for themselves.
"If everything works out the way that we're hoping … then it makes a point that it's not all right," she said. "And if we keep fighting for that, then maybe other people will too."
Richard Bain, superintendent for the Sillsbee Independent School District, declined to comment on the controversy. But Tanner Hunt, the attorney representing the school district, said the teen's punishment at the time was fair.
"At the time she refused to cheer for the boy, he had been 'no billed' by the grand jury," said Hunt, referring to the previous grand jury's ruling that there wasn't significant evidence to warrant an indictment. "At that point, insofar as anyone knew, he wasn't a rapist."
Bolton was expelled from Sillsbee High School after he pleaded guilty to the lesser assault charge in the Fall of 2010. He was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term, two years probation, community service and a $2,500 fine, according to local media reports.
Neither Bolton nor his lawyer could be reached for comment, but he told Texas television station KFDM after sentencing that he thought his punishment was "fair."
"I have no hard feelings toward the girl," Bolton told KFDM. "It was a misunderstanding."
ABC News' Sarah Netter contributed to this report.