Keep It Under Raps


The ACLU has just filed a lawsuit (Latour v. Riverside Beaver School District) to defend grade school student Anthony Latour's First Amendment right to compose music in the privacy of his own home.

Last April, the Riverside Beaver School District in Pennsylvania ordered Latour expelled because he had posted online rap lyrics using expletives and including "terroristic threats" (sic) that sounded violent. In addition to expulsion, court charges are pending from juvenile hall.

"School officials are not parents, and the First Amendment limits their authority to control what students read, write, rap or listen to in their own homes," said Witold Walczak, ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director and one of the lawyers in this case. "If this expulsion is upheld then it will effectively be illegal for Riverside Beaver District students to compose rap music, even in their own homes." Walczak noted that the student wrote and recorded the music at home, did not bring it into school, and that the principal admitted that the songs did not cause any disruption in the classroom.

Don't parents have the right to set ethical standards and regulate their kids' behavior in the home, so long as it doesn't interfere with anyone's safety or well-being? Latour's father, John, apparently agrees:

My grandparents didn't like Elvis; my parents didn't like Pink Floyd; and even though rap music may not be my taste, as parents my wife and I support Anthony's artistry and passion for rap music. And it is our job, not that of school officials, to decide what music Anthony can compose and listen to in our home.