Published Online: March 27, 2012
Published in Print: March 28, 2012, as Free-Speech Claim Denied by Court

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Free-Speech Claim Denied by Court

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A Mississippi student's rap song on Facebook and YouTube targeting two of his high school's coaches as having had improper contact with female students was not protected by the First Amendment, a federal district judge has ruled.

The judge upheld a seven-day suspension and a transfer to an alternative school for five weeks for Taylor Bell, who was a senior at Itawamba Agricultural School in 2011 when he composed and published his rap song.

The song contains multiple vulgarities and accuses the coaches of sexual misconduct with juveniles.

The judge agreed with school authorities that the song threatened, harassed, and intimidated school employees. The judge also held that the song caused a "material and/or substantial disruption" at school.

For example, one coach targeted in the song testified in a court hearing that "he felt threatened by the references to killing him in the song," as the judge put it.

Vol. 31, Issue 26, Page 5

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