ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- It's become a tradition at Issaquah High School, one that many find offensive, even dangerous.
It's called May Madness, an online tournament where boys pit their female classmates against each other and vote on which is the sexiest. Girls are encouraged to "look their finest" at school while voting is going on.
“This kind of thing is sexualizing us girls like we're some sort of trophy,” said Devon Keller, a sophomore at the school.
“Almost every teenage girl has self-esteem issues,” added student Tristan Robinson. “And doing something like that is absolutely ridiculous.”
The tournament imitates a contest put on by a local sports radio station, which ranks models and celebrities. It has been going on at Issaquah High for at least five years and no one has been able to make it go away. School officials say they are limited in what they can do because the contest isn't being run on school grounds.
“It's hard,” said Sarah Niegowski, the district’s spokesperson. “It doesn't feel good to anybody.”
Last year when the tournament reappeared, parents went to police and got the website shut down, albeit temporarily. Back then, police threatened organizers with arrest because people were posting vulgar and profane comments under other people's names, a crime in Washington.
This year, the boys have buttoned up the website, making accessibility harder.
“These are pretty smart folks behind this. They know their first amendment rights. They're very quiet about who it is and the group behind it,” said Niegowski.
School officials say police are monitoring the site, and the district is doing all it can to discourage anyone from taking part. Some, however, fear what damage is already being done.
“People who might already have depression might take it further and there's no way to know what's going on,” said student David Mahoney.