Coach and college on ‘Cheer’ sued for allegedly covering up sexual assault

Coach and college on ‘Cheer’ sued for allegedly covering up sexual assault

Coach and college featured on Netflix’s Cheer sued for allegedly trying to cover up sexual assault

Navarro College, cheerleading head coach Monica Aldama, and other employees have been accused of trying to suppress a student’s account of being assaulted in the fall of 2021.

Sydney Bucksbaum

Cheer Season 2

The cheerleading program featured on Netflix’s Cheer is embroiled in legal action once again.

Navarro College, home to the cheerleaders who starred in the streamer’s popular docuseries, has been accused of trying to cover up the sexual assault of a student in the fall of 2021, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dallas. A complaint reviewed by EW names Navarro, cheerleading head coach Monica Aldama, director of athletics Michael Landers, Title IX coordinator Elizabeth Pillans, and the accused assailant as defendants.

The plaintiff, a student from North Texas, claims she was sexually assaulted by another member of the cheer squad during her first semester at Navarro in September 2021. She says her roommate invited several male cheerleaders into their room at about 4 a.m. after a party while she was asleep in bed. The student alleges that one of the male cheerleaders got into her bed and began to sexually assault her, and that she tried to call for help and eventually was able to push him away.

Monica Aldama on ‘Cheer’

Monica Aldama on ‘Cheer’

| Credit: Netflix

When the student tried to report the assault, Aldama (who appeared on both seasons of Cheer), other cheerleaders, campus police, and the college’s Title IX coordinator all allegedly discouraged her from doing so. According to the suit, another squad member told her to “drink it off and get your mind off of it” the next day at a party because “that’s what Navarro girls do — they drink. We don’t tell anyone. We just keep it to our self.” The student also alleges that her boyfriend was banned from campus and threatened at gunpoint to not report the assault. Aldama allegedly interrupted the student when she tried to tell her about the assault, saying, “Let’s not make this a big deal. I want the best for you and I will help you cheer wherever you want… If you keep quiet, I’ll make sure you can cheer anywhere you want.”

In a statement provided to EW on Thursday, Navarro denied “any allegations of wrongdoing” and said it is “prepared to vigorously defend itself in court.”

“The safety and welfare of students is always of utmost priority,” the school added. “Navarro College prohibits sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against all students and is deeply committed to providing an educational environment free from sex discrimination and sexual assault. The College has established robust policies and procedures for reporting, investigating, and responding to all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Navarro College takes every report of sexual harassment and sexual assault seriously and acts swiftly to provide an appropriate response to protect all students.”

The statement concluded, “Navarro College does not have further comment because this case is now in active litigation.”

In a separate statement to EW, Aldama said she is “heartbroken by the false allegations made against me.”

She added, “As the Navarro Cheer coach, the health and safety of the students I coach is my main concern. I have worked year after year to make sure Navarro Cheer is a safe space for all cheerleaders. We do not condone or cover-up reports of sexual harassment and assault. As an athletics coach and Navarro College employee, I take all Title IX matters very seriously, especially reports of sexual misconduct. I am a rules follower. I always follow all appropriate procedures regarding reporting and responding to any allegations of misconduct in the Navarro Cheer program. I make sure to report, and encourage others to report, any allegations of harassment, discrimination, or assault to appropriate authorities and officials. I would never remain silent, or ask any student to remain silent, if I were aware that any sexual misconduct occurred in the Cheer program. Because there is a pending lawsuit against me, I have no further comment at this time.”

Representatives for Netflix didn’t immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.

This isn’t the first time Navarro’s cheerleading program has been involved in legal troubles. Last year, former squad member and Cheer star Jerry Harris was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography and sex crime charges.

[This article has been updated with a statement from Aldama.]

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