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Coastal Carolina U. Ends Investigation of Prostitution Allegations Against Cheerleaders

Updated (5/19/2017, 3:45 p.m.) with comment from a lawyer for some members of the team.

Cheerleading will be back next school year at Coastal Carolina University following the team’s suspension tied to allegations of prostitution.

That assertion stemmed from an anonymous letter writer who, in a message to the university, said members of the cheerleading team were “prostituting themselves.” In the course of a university investigation, police officers found that some of the young women had been paid $100 to $1,500 to go on dates, arranged through a website, but that sexual favors weren’t involved.

“The university has thoroughly investigated this matter, taking into consideration the mission of the institution and our No. 1 priority and obligation to protect the safety and well-being of our students,” said David A. DeCenzo, president of the university. “As a public institution with a code of ethical conduct and as a public agency entrusted with public funds, we have a duty to investigate serious allegations. We had no choice.”

The letter writer also accused members of the team of hazing-like behavior, such as forcing younger members to drink, and claimed that cheerleaders “are paying others to do their schoolwork for them.”

William M. Plate Jr., a university spokesman, wrote in a statement that tryouts for next year’s team were still scheduled. The statement didn’t include specifics about what the cheerleading team was said to have done or whether its members were found to have violated university policies.

Coastal Carolina abruptly suspended the cheerleading team in March and later released documents that revealed the scope of the investigation.

Amy S. Lawrence, a lawyer representing some members of the team, previously said the university had unfairly targeted the young women. She issued a new statement on Friday afternoon suggesting the university’s actions already had had consequences.

“While Coastal Carolina University may consider this matter closed, I believe that the university’s rush to judgment and use of a broad brush has damaged the many young women on the cheerleading team who had no involvement with this website,” Ms. Lawrence said in a statement. “I look forward to their stories being told in due course.”

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