Some describe the Texas cheerleader scandal as a case of "girls gone wild," and others would say that it's a case of parenting gone badly. Either way, no one denies that the behavior and antics of the senior cheerleaders on the 2006 North McKinney High School squad were a serious problem.
History of Bawdy Behavior
The so-called "Fab Five" consisted of Karrissa Theret, Danielle Billelo, Shaunika Dancy, Brittney Rader, and Elizabeth Griffin. What eventually escalated as an infamous scandal was but a reflection of four years of bad behavior from the girls, starting from around 2002. They were seen as an elite clique that was "blatantly mean to other students, obnoxiously rude to teachers, and callously manipulative of their coaches."
A Lack of Discipline
Parents and school administration reportedly tolerated and even enabled such behavior. Notably, Linda Theret, principal of North McKinney High School, was also Karrissa Theret's mother. She was accused of not only failing to discipline the girls, but also of covering up their antics to allow them to stay on the squad and continue behaving badly.
Since the girls refused any sort of discipline, they went through five cheerleading coaches in three years. Michaela Ward was their last coach. She attempted to bring what she felt was a culture of entitlement to a halt late in 2006.
Cheerleaders Behaving Badly
The seniors on the North McKinney High School cheerleading squad caused a scandal to erupt when they posed in racy photos while wearing their uniforms. They shared the photos online in 2006.
The Notorious Pictures
The infamous photos depicted the cheer girls in a variety of compromising situations. These included girls in bikinis sharing bottles of booze and girls in risqué poses giving glimpses of their underwear. The final straw was when the "Fab Five" posed (in uniform no less) at a Condoms to Go store holding candles shaped like penises. One of the girls appeared to be simulating oral sex. The photos were posted on MySpace.
Scapegoating Michaela Ward
While the Fab Five photos became the center of the media storm, it was cheerleading coach Michaela Ward who was forced to resign in October 2006 when, according to her, all efforts to discipline the girls were undermined by the administration.
Perhaps making the school administration look worse, they released a public attack on Ward's character and accused her of making false allegations. She sued the school district and in many ways became the scapegoat of this story.
A Formal Investigation
Upon further investigation in the winter of 2006, Dallas attorney Harold Jones found numerous parties at fault, including the administration, as well as cheerleading coach Michaela Ward. He noted that the photos were merely depicting what had become a four year tyranny of the Fab Five. One teacher said the girls were so untouchable, gang members were nothing by comparison.
Who's at Fault in the Texas Cheerleader Scandal?
Determining who is at fault in this story is complicated. Now that there has been a full investigation, most people are inclined to believe Harold Jones, noting that what was missing was a lack of adults willing to be the adult. According to Jones, no one in this situation was innocent. He cites:
- Michaela Ward for befriending and enabling the girls
- Linda Theret for covering up scandals and failing to discipline the girls
- Other teachers for choosing career advancement over stepping up
- The girls for being disobedient and flippant
- Assistant principal Richard Brunner for looking the other way
- The media for running amok with a story and sensationalizing it to make more money
The girls noted that Ward, who was 26 at the time, tried to get chummy with them and never disciplined them. Ward denies this, stating that they "never had that sort of relationship."
Where Are They Now?
While the original scandal still features prominently in web searches, all parties involved appear to have moved on with their lives.
The Fab Five
The former cheerleaders may be keeping out of the public spotlight since the incident, as minimal information can be found online about a few of them.
- Danielle Billelo is currently an event and office manager with Flexport in New York City.
- Shaunika Dancy may be an aspiring actress or model.
- Karrissa Theret currently resides in either Lufkin or Nacogdoches in Texas.
- Brittney Rader works as the Director of Business Development at TierPoint in Dallas.
- Elizabeth Griffin graduated high school early and attended college.
Theret lost her job as principal over the incidents. However, she maintains that those who were in authority over her resisted her efforts to discipline the girls. In 2009, Linda Theret was hired by the Laredo Independent School District as their Executive Director of Curriculum, a position she still holds.
According to Ward, she was the only solid voice of reason in the situation. She certainly walked away in the best shape. While the district and the media slammed her character, she is still coaching cheerleading and pursued a Master's Degree. She sued the school district for wrongful termination and defamation, but eventually dropped the suit.
A Case of Discretionary Discipline
Many school officials operate under a certain freedom to use their own discretion in difficult situations. In this case, all adult parties say they acted in the way they thought was most fitting given the scenario. Lifetime Television made a movie in 2008 based on these events.