Teen sues for right to rap

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Is this why we need an ACLU?

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a school district on behalf of a 14-year-old rap music fan who was expelled after he posted lyrics on the Internet in which, according to police, he threatened to shoot up his school and named a potential victim.

The ACLU said the songs by Anthony Latour, of Ellwood City, are protected speech, among other reasons, because they were composed at home and not brought to school. The suit says Latour’s expulsion in May from the Riverside Beaver County School District violated his parents’ right to control his upbringing.

“The school may not like Anthony’s songs, but it is beyond their ability to dictate what he reads, writes or even raps at home,” said Witold “Vic” Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director.

What if little Anthony just says it in a conversational tone, or types it in an Internet chat room?

  • tommy

    I think it sort of depends on whether or not his lyrics could be interpreted as a realistic threat to anyone.

    “Some of the lyrics referred to a female student with whom he had problems in the past, Walczak said.”

    I haven’t seen anything that says exactly what they mean by problems in the past, but the first time I heard of this the story said the expulsion was a result of problems he had with her, lyrics directed at her, and the fear her parents and the school had for her safety. But from what I’ve seen, I think those concerns had merit.

  • Justin Gardner

    Yeah, if the lyrics were directed at her, then it’s much more understandable that he was expelled. If he would have talked about bombing the school, I doubt we’d be having this discussion.

    However, I’d have to see the lyrics in order to make any reasonable judgement. What’s threatning to one person, may not be offensive to another, and maybe that’s the point the ACLU is trying to make.

    This passage should shed a little bit more light on the situation:

    Watterson said a teacher gave a disc jockey permission to play one of Latour’s songs at a school dance in December. She said school administrators weren’t aware of the boy’s rap music until late March, when a parent complained to the principal.

    Walczak said the middle school’s administrators never talked to Latour, did not refer him to a school guidance counselor or search his locker. They also did not call his parents or read the lyrics of his songs.

    “This expulsion is based entirely on (Principal Girting’s) interpretation of Anthony’s lyrics,” Walczak said. “The principal is not qualified to interpret these lyrics, and they never asked Anthony what he meant by them. He jumped straight to the punishment stage.”

    In early May, North Sewickley police escorted Latour from school in handcuffs and then charged him with terroristic threats and harassment because of his rap lyrics. Some of the lyrics referred to a female student with whom he had problems in the past, Walczak said.

    Other lyrics were written in a “battle rap” competition with a Riverside High School student, who testified at Latour’s expulsion hearing that he wasn’t threatened by the words Latour wrote and knew they were just part of what rap music is about, Walczak said.

  • goy

    Thinking back to all the brouhaha over the warning signs missed by the parents, teachers and other adult authorities surrounding the two Columbine murderers, support for this sort of threatening behavior – whether it’s considered ostensibly “benign” or not – seems idiotic.

    So much for “Zero Tolerance”, eh?

  • http://none chris konieczka

    i hope he does shoot-up the school now after their fascist expulsion. Plus, did anyone notice this is a copy of an episode of the showtime show Weeds from last season? Also, it is good to know there is someone out there who is standing up for people being able to say what they want, since when did one person(Principal fascist-pants) know more about life than another(school shooter jr.) anyway???

  • http://none chris konieczka

    “i think it sort of depnds on if anyone could interpret his lyrics as a threat” awww. it seem like someone already did. i guess anyone can interpret anything anyway, huh?