This time last year Itawamba County School District in Mississippi, was just beginning its battle with student Constance McMillen, who wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom. The matter was finally wrapped up with the school district agreeing to pay Constance $35k, plus her $81k legal bill. Now Itawamba is facing another lawsuit, also having to do with bullying and free speech. The Jackson Free Press reports:
Taylor Bell [pictured] is an 18-year-old senior at the same school that Constance McMillen attended. Until Jan. 7, his only serious disciplinary problem had been a one-day, in-school suspension for being tardy to class. After graduation, Bell plans to attend Itawamba Community College. He’s also an aspiring rap musician who has been writing, performing and recording songs since he was 13, using the stage name “T-Bizzle.”
Around Christmas of last year, Bell heard some female students at IAHS allege that two male coaches at the school were flirting and touching them inappropriately. “Girls were saying, ‘The coach is looking down my shirt,’ or, ‘He’s saying that my butt is big,’ ” Bell said. “One girl, a gay girl, (said that one coach) was like, ‘If you wasn’t so gay, I would turn you out.’ Stuff like that you just don’t say to students–really, individuals period, but especially not to students.” The next day, Bell said, he had scheduled studio time. In 20 minutes, he wrote three verses about the allegations and recorded them. On Jan. 3, he posted the song on his Facebook page. He says he never asked other students to listen to the song, never accessed it from school and used no school equipment to record it.
Administrators at IAHS got word of the song anyway, and on Jan. 7, they pulled Bell out of class to question him about lyrics that they considered threatening. They honed in on one section, in which Bell rapped, “Looking down girls’ shirts / drool running down your mouth / messing with the wrong one / going to get a pistol down your mouth.”
Bell, who was suspended after a disciplinary hearing in January, launched a suit against the district last month on the same grounds that Constance did: his First Amendment rights were violated. As for the two male coaches allegedly taking their job duties too far with students, and using a girl’s sexuality to harass her? They don’t seem to be Itawamba County’s real concern.