Sex ranking list of high school girls has Mt. Lebanon abuzz

Lawyer for one of the boys says it's not a crime; lawyer for girl on list says it's a 'personal sexual attack'

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An attorney representing one of the boys who compiled a sexually graphic ranking of girls at Mt. Lebanon High School said that the issue has been blown out of proportion.

   
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"I'm not seeing a crime. I'm not seeing a crime on school property," said William H. Difenderfer. "I think this thing is way out of control."

Attorney Linda Krahe, who represents one of the girls on the list, "Top 25 of 2006," couldn't disagree more.

"That's a very sad, demoralizing comment about women. This has put a black eye on all that we thought was precious and good and private and sacred about women," she said. "Each one of these young women has in one way or another suffered a personal sexual attack by way of this list."

The school district and the Mt. Lebanon Police Department are investigating the list, which was reported to school administrators this month.

At issue is whether the list, which includes grades for girls' faces, breasts and buttocks and talks about drug use, oral sex, sexually transmitted disease and weight, constitutes criminal sexual harassment or violation of the school's policy against sexual harassment.

While attorneys on both sides debated the issue, students outside the high school at dismissal yesterday generally said the matter was overblown.

"It's just kids being kids," said Michael Gallaway, 16.

Junior Tim DeVito chalked up some of the upset and publicity to the fact that it seems like Mt. Lebanon is under a microscope.

"It's very conservative," said junior Colin Brooks.

"Any other place, it would be way less important," said Michael Stang, a junior.

Mr. Difenderfer would not identify his client by name, age or grade and would not say how many boys were involved in the list's preparation and distribution, beyond "a lot." But he doesn't believe the boys who brought it to school or e-mailed it to others were the boys who wrote it.

"It was not designed to be done on school time on school property," he said. "The vulgarity is wrong. But that's not to say that's not what these guys talk about at parties."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is not identifying any of the girls on the list.

One parent of a student named on the list believes it represents both criminal harassment and ethnic intimidation because the people mentioned are female and it includes an ethnic slur. He also said the list violates the Mt. Lebanon School District's policy against sexual harassment.

That policy notes that examples of sexual harassment include "unwelcome sexual slurs, epithets, threats, verbal abuse, derogatory comments or sexually degrading descriptions; unwelcome graphic verbal comments about an individual's body or overly personal conversation."

The policy, which lists consequences that range from a warning or reprimand to expulsion, also says harassment includes "unwelcome spreading of sexual rumors."

However, Mr. Difenderfer said something is not a rumor if it is true. He also said "truth is a defense" in a defamation case, something parents should consider if they file a civil suit.

"Reputation is everything," he said.

He said the bottom line is that since the document was not meant to be taken to school, the school's sexual harassment policy shouldn't apply.

Mr. Difenderfer acknowledged that the list was in bad taste, that parts of it are "disgusting" and that the boys should receive some punishment but that it ought to be tempered. If students are expelled, he said, that "would be ridiculous." He believes a more appropriate punishment would be detention or a day's suspension.

The mother of one of the girls thinks the consequence to the boys should be something important to them, such as loss of time on an athletic team, or a public apology.

"This consequence should be something meaningful and helpful for them to understand," she said. "Maybe they could learn more about what happens when you put names of people in print and how it impacts that person in the future. With all of this talk right now about MySpace and Facebook [two Internet sites with student profiles], how these kids put things in print and they don't realize what they're doing to themselves and their friends can follow them for the rest of their lives and really impact their lives."

Another girl's parent said the writers shouldn't get off scot-free but they shouldn't be marked for life because they are "generally good kids. They just made a mistake. Are you going to ruin their life over it?"

The parent of the student whose heritage was ridiculed said if the district does not take corrective action, "We will take action."

Students said the list was an annual event but that they could not recall them being as detailed or as crude as this year's. Some of them agreed that some of the items in the list were true but others said they were lies.

One student, a sophomore who identified herself as receiving an honorable mention on the list, said she wasn't upset about being named because no one wrote anything disgusting about her.

"I feel really bad about the girls who were on it. I think it was stupid," she said. But, she said "It wasn't a big deal. Yeah, they did something bad, but I don't think they should be expelled."

She knows many of the girls on the list and said many of them don't care about it -- it's their parents who are upset.

Juniors Caroline Tobin and Cassandra Klobuchir said they knew some of the girls on the list.

Ms. Klobuchir said some of her friends were comforting girls who were upset about being on the list and who were crying.

Ms. Krahe said her client has been affected by the list and has missed school.

"Every single one of the comments made about these young women are more than distasteful; they're nauseating, insufferable," she said. "They were made by someone with too much time on their hands with a warped and twisted, repulsive sense of appropriate behavior."


Staff writer Moustafa Ayad contributed. Laura Pace can be reached at lpace@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867. Eleanor Chute can be reached at echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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