I was stunned to read about the case of a high school senior in Mississippi who was suspended and sent to an alternative school for 5 weeks for writing a rap song and posting it on his Facebook page. This would be bad enough without knowing anything else about the incident. It is another example of harsh school disciplinary policies that students are consistently subjected to across the U.S. However upon further examination, your outrage will no doubt increase.
Taylor Bell, 18, wrote a song (on his own time and not at school) called “PSK The Truth Need To Be Told.” The young man explained that:
he wrote the song after he “learned from several female students at Itawamba (his school) that two athletic coaches were engaging in harmful conduct towards female students, including but not limited to, flirting with female students and inappropriate contact with intimate body parts of female students.”
For exposing this truth, Mr. Bell was suspended from school for 5 weeks. He says he wrote and recorded the song because he was “outraged.”
He adds: “The song vaguely reference the two athletic coaches accused of the misconduct and describes the misconduct told to him by the female students. Mr. Bell also metaphorically warned that the public might retaliate against the coaches for this conduct.”
As someone who is consistently lamenting the fact that too few men are allies to women who experience violence, I am incensed at how this young man has been treated by the school system. He posted his song on a Facebook page that could only be accessed by his personal friends and pre-approved people on January 3rd. He was called before a disciplinary hearing twelve days later.
At the hearing, “The song was played for the disciplinary committee. At the hearing, Mr. Bell gave the school officials copies of letters from female students verifying the statements made in the song.”
Bell says the committee found that his song “did not constitute a direct threat and instead amounted to harassment and intimidation of school teachers. The disciplinary committee recommended a seven-day suspension and five weeks at Itawamba Alternative School. To this point, it does not appear as if the school officials have done any investigation into the statements from the female students.”
The school board approved the punishment of a seven day suspension and five weeks of alternative school.
Mr. Bell has decided to “sue his principal, superintendent and school board, claiming he was unconstitutionally punished for writing and recording a rap song, on his own time, off campus, and posting it on his Facebook page.”
Bell says the defendants punished him for constitutionally protected speech. He seeks reinstatement to his regular classes, wants records of the incident expunged, and wants the defendants enjoined “from enforcing the school disciplinary code against students for expression that takes place outside of the school or school-sponsored activities.”
Good for you Taylor! Thank you for being an ally to your female friends! We should all be applauding the actions of this young man rather than pushing him out of school for speaking truth to power.
You can read the full article here.