May Madness contest upsets Issaquah High

May 14, 2013

By Keith Ervin

Among some students at Issaquah High School, a dubious contest known as May Madness has popped up in recent years almost as predictably as final exams.

But because the object of the underground competition is to determine the best-looking, or “hottest,” girls in school, administrators, teachers and many students are eager to stamp it out.

Anonymous promoters of May Madness at Issaquah High have once again posted on a Facebook page 64 yearbook-style photos of girls for one-on-one matchups in brackets patterned after sports tournaments. A girl’s name can be entered in or withheld from the contest without her permission.

Administrators have tried, without success, to find out who’s behind this year’s competition, but students have gotten more tech-savvy and stayed one step ahead of the school, Issaquah School District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said.

Last year, the page had a direct link to the brackets and voting, but no currently functioning link is apparent on the site this year.

“Issaquah High School does not condone in any way the actions of the individuals perpetuating this practice. If there is an appearance of apathy on the part of the school and district, it is misleading,” Principal Paula Phelps wrote in an email to parents. “We are working with the Issaquah Police Department to identify the site location and the individuals involved. With the assistance of the cybercrimes detective we were able to shut down the site last year.”

May Madness, Niegowski said, “preys on a lot of insecurities that already exist in adolescents.”

Issaquah High officials keep in touch with police, ask hosting websites to shut down May Madness, and work “back channels” to find out from students who might be responsible.

Even if May Madness promoters can be identified, they can be disciplined only if they bring that outside activity onto campus or if the activity causes a disruption at school, Niegowski said.

Issaquah High’s contest lost a bit of steam last year after city police warned some students they could be guilty of criminal computer trespass for using other people’s login credentials, police Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum said.

But, police haven’t received any criminal complaints this year and aren’t as involved as they were last year, Behrbaum said.

Police and school officials urged parents to talk to their children about how they use computers and whether they might be inflicting emotional pain on other students.

Niegowski said she believes most students at Issaquah High — including boys — are unhappy with the hot-girl contest.

“A lot of them say this isn’t what I’m about and I don’t like the fact that our school is getting this reputation, and I don’t view females this way,” she said.

“I would ask that parents take a moment to speak with your children about the negative impact of this activity. In past years, when we have spoken with parents whose students were involved in this activity, we have been surprised by them finding our outrage overblown and amusing,” Phelps wrote in her email. “There is nothing amusing about this. It is degrading and demoralizing. Issaquah High School is better than this.”


Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or Press Managing Editor contributed to this story. Comment at


On the Web

To help combat publicity about the contest, some Issaquah High School students posted a video on You Tube that talks about the contest and about positive things at the school. View it at


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2 Responses to “May Madness contest upsets Issaquah High”

  1. John on May 15th, 2013 7:12 pm

    Seniors have voted for class superlatives (or hall of fame), including Best Looking — male and female — Class Clown, etc., for decades. Suddenly it’s offensive?

    Is it the one who wins that’s offended, or the ones who don’t win?

    If you don’t like it, don’t participate. Meanwhile, it’s entirely inappropriate for the police (or even the school) to get involved. I wasn’t aware telling someone they’re pretty was a crime. Find something more important to work on, police.

  2. Smoley on May 18th, 2013 4:05 pm

    Our public schools believe it’s their job to instill the idea that every child is a winner, apparently to the degree that it should be enforced with the help of the local police.

    The problem with this is that trying to squelch free speech to prevent offending someone isn’t how the real world works. Instead students should be taught that not everything you experience in life is going to make you feel like you’re a winner. Understanding this fact and learning how to deal with jerks such as the people running this May Madness bracket is a very important part of an education.

    It comes as no surprise to me that the other article in this week’s Issaquah Press reporting that a large percentage of our young people in local high schools admittedly suffer from depression and have even contemplated suicide shows they may not be getting the education that they need when it comes to dealing with their problems.

    Getting rid of this dumb May Madness bracket is a temporary victory at best. I think a better approach would be to teach our kids how deal with life’s moments that you can’t control. How about looking into that approach, Ms. Principal and let our police department go back to worrying about burglaries and drunk drivers?

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