Issaquah high school
An image of Issaquah High School, where students are holding a "May Madness" hotness tournament to rank female students. Wikipedia Commons

An Issaquah, Wash., high school’s “hotness tournament" has drawn the ire of the Seattle suburb's students and administrators.

The annual Issaquah High School tournament known as “May Madness” is an online competition in which the school’s male students rank their female classmates on perceived attractiveness, local news outlet King 5 reports. While some Issaquah students have embraced the event, encouraging female students to “look their finest” during the voting period, many others are outraged by the online spectacle, noting the manner in which the competition objectifies women.

“This kind of thing is sexualizing us girls like we're some sort of trophy,” sophomore Devon Keller told local station King 5.

Other students voiced indignation about the negative effect that “May Madness” can have on a teenage girl’s self-esteem.

“Almost every teenage girl has self-esteem issues,” student Tristan Robinson told King 5. “And doing something like that is absolutely ridiculous.”

According to King 5, the May Madness tournament emulates a similar contest held by a local radio station that ranks female models and celebrities. The high school’s version has been running for five years now, despite the efforts of school administrators to stop it. Officials' options are limited because the contest is not organized on school grounds.

“It's hard,” district spokesperson Sarah Niegowski told King 5. “It doesn't feel good to anybody.”

Last year, the tournament’s website was temporarily disabled after parents called police to report a cyberbullying incident that violated Washington law. However, the website operators have since restricted outside access, making it harder for authorities to track potentially harmful situations.

“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,” Niegowski added.

While school officials noted that local police are still monitoring the site, some students worry that the damage caused by the hotness tournament may already be 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.