Anonymous Twitter User Published Brackets to Rank Female Students

Principal Eric Juli publicly rebukes those who created and shared the post


David Vahey

The March Badness twitter handle previous to when it was taken down.

At noon yesterday the Twitter user @SHMarchBadness posted brackets designed to rank the attractiveness of female students from all four grades at the high school, and Principal Eric Juli immediately condemned it in an email message to all students.

The post mimicked the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament structure. 

“The first step was to get the account taken down, which we’ve done. We had a whole bunch of people reach out to Twitter to report the account,” Juli said. “I’m beginning an investigation to see who created it. I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen.”

According to the Shaker Heights Student Handbook, harassment and bullying is defined by the Ohio Revised code as “any intentional, written, verbal or physical act that is student or student or staff on student, and the behavior causes mental or physical harm and is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it created intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for the other student. This includes cyberbullying.”

Should the “hazing or bullying” be based sex, the bullying investigation is suspended while the district implements nondiscrimination grievance procedures. The investigation itself starts within 24 hours of receipt of any complaint of bullying. Disciplinary action is taken “as determined, appropriate and consistent with due process rights.” The district also pledges to create a plan to stop, remedy, and prevent the occurrence of new harassment for the victim or other persons who participated or were involved with the incident.

The anonymous account owner tweeted rules and instructions for the competition. “64 teams single elim. Four grades, 16 competitors per grade. 32 teams move on from the group stage. All voting done via twitter polls here. Group stage voting starts 2/26 3:15. Voting for top 32 teams starts 3/1,” they wrote. The account was deleted within an hour after the post. 

Juli sent an email to all high school students at 2:47 p.m. with the subject line “STOP” to address the account and sharing of it. “To the students who created the brackets, and to the students who are continuing to share them, what you have done and what you are doing is wrong,” he wrote. “It’s disrespectful, it’s misogynistic, and it’s bullying. For those of you who created the poll, when I learn your identities, there will be consequences.”

A junior who was included by name in the bracket said she appreciated Juli’s response. “I was really happy to see that the school and the community seemed to really care about the issue and that he addressed it promptly and directly,” she said. To prevent further emotional harm, The Shakerite will not publish names of the girls included in the Twitter post unless they request to be identified.

The junior said she had not originally seen that there were brackets made for all grades. “I wasn’t expecting to see my name on the list, and when it was there, I was just totally, I can’t even describe how I was feeling. I was really happy I stayed home from school today because I knew if I was at school, I probably would have had a huge breakdown, and it was really traumatizing and really gutting to see my name on the list,” the junior said. 

A freshman who was included in the Twitter post said, “I think it’s messed up and I don’t think anyone should be rating people based on their looks, and in general, no one should be ranked or put against each other.” She said that although the Twitter account has been deleted, she wants its creators to face serious consequences.

“It is clearly very messed up and degrading towards people’s confidence, and it is so messed up someone could do this,” another freshman named by the account creator said. “We should make sure we take precautions so that this doesn’t happen again in the future.”

However, such rankings are not unfamiliar to Shaker students. In 2013, The Shakerite published a column by Shane McKeon addressing the creation of a “Shaker’s Top Ten” list that was anonymously tweeted and titled “Cutest Girls of November.” Juli also wrote in his email that although “this is the most recent example of bad decision making, it isn’t the only one.”

The junior named by the account said that she thought a district-wide meeting would be an appropriate response to the incident. “I feel like so many things like this happen, and it just gets ignored. There are just a lot of issues centered around sexism, and I think a lot of times they’re ignored. Although this issue is really bad, it’ll help bring some attention to it,” she said.

Juli said he hopes that if the account resurfaces that students and families report it to him again, just as they did yesterday.

In his email to students, Juli stated that ranking students is “entirely unacceptable.” He reiterated Shaker students’ diversity, including that of gender identity, sexual orientation, height, or even race. “Am I a good or bad principal or person based upon my body type? I don’t think so. It’s unacceptable in every imaginable way to express or to share that we value young women in our school based on their bodies. Posting this poll, and continuing to share this poll via screenshot is unacceptable. So STOP,” he wrote. 

“We need to do better as a school, and we need everyone to participate,” Juli wrote. “To all our young women at Shaker Heights High School, I’m sorry this post was created, posted, and shared. You matter, and we value you all unconditionally.” 

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops. Editor-in-Chief Lauren Sheperd contributed to reporting.

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