Slut-Shaming and Free Speech: Can a Lawsuit End the Decades-Old "Senior List" In Ladue?

Senior list meme.jpeg
HSMemes.com
A meme from the Ladue Horton Watkins H.S. page, posted around the time of the "list."
Martha "Missy" Combs recalls finding out this way: While cramming for a math quiz near the end of her junior year at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, she got a tap on the shoulder. It was a friend informing her that Combs made the "senior list."

Combs knew exactly what this meant. The year before while at cheerleading practice, she'd seen a "list" go around about an older female classmate.

"They did the ABCs on her. A-B-C-D-E-F-G, all saying bad things about her," recalls Combs. "I was thinking she was dating a senior boy at the time, that's probably why they did that to her at the time. Little did I know."

Combs debated just going home, but ultimately decided to stay and make her way to the "commons" where the list was being passed out.

"You see floods of paper all around, people passing it from person to person," she recalls.

missy combs.jpeg
Missy Combs
To this day, Combs keeps a copy of the list in the form of a cell phone photo, five years since she first read it. She has it memorized. She won't allow Daily RFT to reprint it, but reads it aloud. The 2007 Senior List calls out five girls, named by initials only, and slams them in rhyme. Two verses mock girls for being too fat, one girl gets it for not getting a prom date, a couple are said to be too ugly, two girls are referred to as being sluts, and one is denounced for being Jewish.

"I was definitely not somebody who flew under the radar, but I was never mean to anyone," says Combs of her high school reputation.

According to anecdotal evidence, the "Senior List" varies from year to year, but is traditionally written by the boys about the senior girls. Sometimes it's passed out on the senior's last day of school. The point seems to be to take some of the more popular girls down a peg or two.

For Combs, the list had lasting effects. She says she only stopped thinking about it two years ago.

"I kind of felt like everybody hated me for a long time," she says. "I wish I would've known better."

Combs is speaking out now after a Ladue mom made national headlines denouncing the school district for allowing the list to become an unofficial tradition for what some estimate could be as long as 30 years.

Ruth Ahlemeier has been going back and forth with the school for months, ever since her own daughter called her in hysterics on May 11 of this year after finding her name on the 2012 Senior List.

"There are never any consequences. That's why this continues," says Ahlemeier. "This is bullying, plain and simple."


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13 comments
Chad Hanebrink
Chad Hanebrink

OMG! Stop the presses! Girls are talking shit on each other behind their backs. What is this new trend in the social hierarchy of the under 30 crowd? What has the world come to?

Robert Winkelmann
Robert Winkelmann

The answer is NO. There has been no evidence that school property was used to make this happen nor that it happens on school time. You can't stop people from doing what they want on their own. It's stupid, it's childish and it's free speech.

factchecker
factchecker

One key fact is incorrect.  Not surprising, but it changes the entire context of the story.  Historically, the list was produced by senior girls and targeted junior girls.  Were boys involved?  Likely yes.  Does the list deserve to be a tradition? Of course not - it is an embarrassment.

DavidSTLhss
DavidSTLhss

.@RiverfrontTimes piece sheds light on how bogus ladue admins are acting. theyd squash a racist/xenophobic prank but not a sexist one. #weak

StL__T
StL__T

The problem I see is that the list is made about women, by boys. As a guy, I know what I did when someone said something to me in high school that was offensive: either tell someone in charge, or seek my own remedy: violence. A girl has a hard time defending herself from a boy, that we all know. Without action from school, or government, things will "get out of hand" ... If I was in high school and someone said something about my girlfriend, there would be no "discussion" ... the result would be very unpleasant for the person doing the offending, and/or their personal property. Without the mechanism of a third party to intervene, it is a ticking time bomb. 

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

I dunno. Look at the entire E television line up. That might reason.

tehmongering
tehmongering

Lawyers? Civil Rights lawsuit? The “feds”? It’s Ladue I know…but this is asinine. Much as people would like, a “hostility-free environment” is a pipe-dream in school almost as much as it is in real life. The kids that do this to other kids are clearly assholes, but it isn’t a crime to be an asshole and certainly shouldn’t involve litigation against the school. Believe me those kids will insult the wrong person someday and all litigation will do to the school is make them into Nazis if they lose a court fight benefiting no one. I feel sorry for the daughter of Ruth Ahlemeier but it isn’t like her kid is getting beaten at school and it isn’t like the school hasn’t done something. Getting a thick skin (and some snark) is part of growing up and necessary as hell to living with other people in society. This anti-bullying legislation and need for people to enlist armies of lawyers to protect their kids is a dangerous trend that endangers free speech. What does it teach children and everyone else when a person calls out the lawyers and threatens to get the “feds” involved for the smallest slight? Does it help kids to know that all they have to yell is "bully" and countless people and the law will show up to solve the problem? That's a great way of making victimized kids into asshole adults and is another example of how one person’s inability to deal with adversity we all deal with results in everyone taking hit on personal liberty.

Alex Yee
Alex Yee

Parkway had banned senior superlative lists by the time I was a senior in 04.

Lussenpop
Lussenpop

 @factchecker I would love to hear more about this. Is there any chance you'd email me? jessical (at) riverfronttimes (dom) com

tehmongering
tehmongering

@StL__T OMG you're right! Girls in school never make lists about boys or make fun of them ever! And I'm sure the teasing, taunting, and indiscreet chuckles will never hurt a guy because those poor defenseless girls need all the help the can get from us dudes...isn't hegemonic masculinity a bitch!?!?! It's a bummer the school didn't take any action...for instance punishing two of the boys they thought were responsible. Such a bummer there wasn't a third party to intervene in this...the school...her mother...the fucking RFT. She's all alone. I'm sure she'd jump at the chance to be protected by someone willing to make it unpleasant for the offenders or damage their personal property. You sure you're not one of those dudes that made lists like that in school? Cause you sound like one hell of an asshole.

StL__T
StL__T

 @tehmongering  I can't even make sense of your comment. I'm sure it makes sense to you. I have no idea what your payoff or investment is in this issue that justifies the comments you posted in response to mine. 

tehmongering
tehmongering

@StL__T It's called sarcasm. I'm not surprised you don't understand.

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