(CBS) Two cheerleaders at Bothell High School, near Seattle, were suspended from the squad after school officials learned nude cell phone pictures of the girls were circulating throughout the student body, via text message.
Now, the girls' parents are suing the Northshore School District, alleging school officials acted inappropriately while reprimanding the cheerleaders and failed to go after the students who actually sent the photos. One was suspended for 30 days and the other for the whole school year.
One teen's mother, whose name CBS News is withholding because her daughter is a minor, told us, "If she had been caught taking illegal drugs twice, she would not have been punished this severely. The school has arbitrarily taken away the one thing that my daughter loves most. She will never get that back again."
The school district says it stands by its disciplinary action.
Matthew King, an attorney representing the two families, told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez on The Early Show Tuesday the teens "admit that what they did was an incredible error in judgment. The issue is not whether or not the photos were improper. The issue is what happened after the administration learned of the photos.
"Initially, they (school officials) did not report these to the police until after one of my clients' mothers discovered the photos were floating around and contacted the police herself. In addition, they have done absolutely no investigation into who transmitted these photos, where they came from, how many people had them, those kinds of things."
School administrators say they gave both girls a chance to appeal their discipline to the school board and the disciplinary committee and "everybody across the board thought it was the right thing to do," Rodriguez pointed out.
"Again," King responded, "it's not the issue of the discipline of the girls necessarily as much as it is the lack of discipline. There is an implied 'boys will be boys' sort of mentality here, where none of the boys who had these photos on their phones were ever punished. That's a problem, we feel."
King concedes that, "The student code of the conduct does say that athletes are held to a higher standard. The problem that we have -- one of my clients took the photo back when she was 13, before she even was a student at the school and the photo, unfortunately, has been following her around from grade level to grade level. As a result, I find it difficult to believe she can be punished for something violating a code of conduct that she simply had no knowledge of until after she got into high school."
His clients, King added, "certainly know this is an inappropriate thing to do. They know that, even though it may sounds like a fun and sort of frivolous idea, it can have serious impacts for the rest of their lives."
King says the families aren't seeking monetary damages, but want the record corrected. "They do not want this to affect college admission," he told CBS News, "and they are asking for school district to apologize for the improper way investigation was handled. They also want the legal fees paid for."
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