Girls in the Mount Lebanon School District outside of Pittsburgh woke up to a teenager's worst nightmare this month when a document titled "Top 25 in 2006" was released for all their peers -- the whole world -- to see. The document, as you might have guessed from its title, ranks the girls in order from one to 25 using a nifty little system where each girl gets graded for her face, breasts and butt. (No room for legs.) According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the list includes the girl's picture and her year in school and offers "a brief description of each girl in crude and vulgar terms." There are references to girls performing oral sex and their weight, and in one instance a girl was ridiculed for her ethnic background. It is not clear who or how many people participated in the list or in its circulation (mostly by e-mail) and whether it was just boys or both boys and girls.
The list is gross, yes, and it's impossible for anyone who was ever 15 (or 30) not to cringe at the thought of being graded on your looks. (Isn't that what we're all afraid of all of the time?) But this is how people act in high school, right? Kids are mean.
Well, yes, they can be. But it seems as if the community of Mount Lebanon is determined not to let this incident be swept under the proverbial sexism rug as "boys will be boys" or "it's just a high school prank." School board president Joseph Rodella said of the list: "This is reprehensible, deplorable. There is not a single typed phrase in there that does not disgust me. There is no way we could take this lightly and we don't." Indeed, two separate investigations are being conducted, one by police and another by the district.
The police investigation officially ended this week and found no criminal activity; only if the list had been e-mailed or mailed to the homes of the girls, and one of the girls had been willing to testify, would the incident have constituted sexual harassment. Yet, they are still looking into the matter of ethnic slurs. One member of the school board has called for the district superintendent and the school principal to step down, saying that they haven't handled the investigation swiftly enough.
Maybe it's reactionary, but it was refreshing to read about a community's response to an episode of public sexualizing that recognized it as a humiliating, "deplorable" event.