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High school’s annual ‘hot list’

Every May for at least the past five years, students at the Issaquah High School have created a bracket modeled on basketball’s March Madness bracket — but this bracket rates students on their looks and has nothing to do with sports.

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Local News
05/10/13

Students respond to ‘Hot List’ with video

ISSAQUAH — Issquah High School has received national attention ever since news broke that students were running a May Madness poll on Facebook, ranking the school’s “hottest” girls and guys.

Now, some students are trying to portray their school in a more positive light.

A group of Issauah High School students took to YouTube to express positive things they and their school have done recently.

Watch the video above.

NORTH BEND, Wash. — Another online tournament that ranks girls based on looks has surfaced at a Western Washington high school.

hot or notMadeline Weinstein is a freshman at Mount Si High and just found out that fellow classmates have been rating teen girls and guys from her school, online, based on looks.

“They put people down about it because some people are self-conscious about their looks and it’s just really sad,” Weinstein said.

It’s just one of many ‘May Madness’ brackets popping up from Western Washington high schools. Earlier this week, it came to light that two similar online tournaments were being held in Issaquah and Juanita. Some students at Mount Si don’t see the harm in it.

Mount Si senior Leila Abu-Robb has heard of the bracket contest. She said, “If guys are intending to bully girls, then I don’t think it’s okay, but, if they’re just trying to talk with each other and decide who they think is hottest, I don’t see any harm behind it.”

Laura Wood, a mother of a teen from Mount Si, doesn’t like this type of extra-curricular activity.

“I think that people shouldn’t be judging people, comparing them to other people for a winner. I think that’s wrong,” she said.

Julie Metzger specializes in topics like sexuality and parenting. She says these brackets can be devastating to teen girls.

“If you ask girls across the nation what’s one of the top worries you have, it is what do people think of me,” Metzger said.

Knowing how damaging the tournament can be, troubled administrators contacted police to track down the bracket organizer and sent parents a letter about the ‘Hot or Not’ tournament, asking them to talk to their teen about the contest.

“Our principal has been talking with a lot of students to help them understand how that can be very hurtful and disrespectful to others,” district spokesperson, Carolyn Malcolm said.

But Weinstein said she already got the message about real beauty.

“It’s not just based off a contest. It’s not based on the people.  It’s just the inside,” she said.

ISSAQUAH — The way it works is simple — an anonymous committee of students at Issaquah High School creates a “May Madness” bracket of 64 girls and 64 guys pitted against each other based on looks alone. Each week, students vote on who is the most attractive. It’s a tradition at the school that has gone on for at least the last five years.

hot2“It’s pretty disgusting and immature for guys to put this together. Looks aren’t the only important thing,” said Issaquah High junior Tara Fussell.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is a mental health counselor and expert in eating disorders. He thinks this “hot list” idea is devastating for teens’ self-esteem.

“For a girl who didn’t get picked and she’s not on the ‘hot list,’ so to speak, she comes home and it teaches her that something is wrong with her. What we see is body shame — I’m not good enough, I’m not likeable,” Jantz said.

Jantz said that for boys, it teaches them to objectify women. For the girls who are picked, the outcome isn’t good either.

“They’re tying their self-esteem into other’s approval and I’ll tell you it has the same outcome — depression, eating disorders and body image issues,” Jantz said.

This year at Juanita High School in Kirkland there was also a May Madness bracket, but students are working to shut it down. Sophomore Tami Tritz knows two of the girls who were nominated.

“She was pitted against her sister and it didn’t bother them, but I know that in other situations it has torn everyone apart,” Tritz said.

In response to the “hot list,” a group of student leaders at Juanita High School are creating a “respect and kindness” campaign that nominates kids based on their character instead of their looks.

“I know a few people who do a lot of community service and I think they should be some of the people who should be nominated,” Anna Dejong said.

School officials in Issaquah are trying to figure out who is behind the “hot list” and say it was not created on a school computer.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — An online tournament at one local high school is asking students to vote on which girls and guys are the sexiest and several students at Issaquah High built a “May Madness” bracket encouraging everyone at the school to dress the part. The school district, however, is not amused — and neither are most students.

hotornotThe district said the contest skated a fine legal line in years past. Now the district worries the “Hot or Not” contest page could be a form of bullying.

“They’re (contestants) not just like these hollow, shells of women who are just there to be objectified sexually,” said Issaquah senior Tiffany Han. “We know them personally and they’re smart, funny, and we know they have their personalities.”

The contest is a copycat of the March Madness brackets, but instead of basketball teams students are encouraged to vote for the hottest girls and guys. Kids are also encouraged to dress the part during the month of May in order to get the most votes.

“If you wanna look the best, you know, you gotta expose a little here or there, make yourself as appealing as possible,” said senior Andrew Carle. “Personally, that’s not a very favorable idea.”

“Each day they, if you’re hot enough, you can move a bracket and this goes for the whole month until there’s a winner,” explained senior Madison Wernik.

But the prize for winning is elusive and seems to Wernik to only be “recognition that you’re hot — I don’t think that’s the most important thing.”

The school district doesn’t condone or sponsor the page and there’s little administrators can do since the page isn’t maintained on school property. On top of that, the contest hasn’t caused any real disruptions. But some students think it’s downright degrading.

“It’s kind of a stupid idea to begin with,” Carle said.

“Between girls it’s just like a lot of slut-shaming,” Wernik said.

“Some girls and some guys do want to take it that way, but honestly that’s up to them,” Han said. “If they want to get on there because of their reputation for being a slut then, whatever.”

District officials worry the contest could lead to some students feeling targeted and vulnerable to bullies.

“I think it’s certainly a form of harassment and bullying,” said Issaquah School District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski. “I don’t think it’s set up to make people feel good and just from the start you’re basing things on looks, personality, popularity. That’s preying on people’s confidences when you’re already at a very vulnerable age.”

But some kids say there’s nothing mean about the brackets — it’s only a popularity contest.

“There aren’t girls walking around naked so I figure it’s not that extreme,” Han said. “A lot the girls on the brackets are really nice, actually.”

District officials said they’re not sure who’s running the page, but they are sure they will find out who is responsible.

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