High School Rapper Disciplined Over Music Appeals to SCOTUS

Bell v. Itawamba County School Board asks the court to decide whether public schools may discipline students for off-campus speech.


Aspiring rapper Taylor Bell (a.k.a. T-Bizzle), probably never thought he'd be asking Supreme Court justices to take a look at his rap lyrics. But that is exactly what he is doing after a lower court in Mississippi threw out his case against a school board who suspended him for posting a rap song to the internet. From Damon Root:

In 2011 Bell, then a high school senior, was suspended for "harassment, intimidation, or threatening other students and/or teachers" after he posted a rap song to Facebook and YouTube. The song irked school officials because it discussed the sexual misconduct charges leveled against two coaches by some of Bell's classmates.

Some of the lyrics included lines like "Looking down girls' shirts, drool running down your mouth," and "Going to get a pistol down your mouth," but it remains to be seen what kind of real threat Bell posed to anyone.

College professors Charis Kubrin of University of California, Irvine and Erik Nielson of the University of Richmond say the situation is much more dire than high school drama. They said in an amicus brief this week that in attempting to censor Bell's rap song, the school and Mississippi court deligitimized rap music as well:

In attempting to censor Bell's artistic expression, the school, and later the Fifth Circuit, essentially took aim at rap music, a sophisticated form of poetry that has served as an important vehicle for social commentary and political protest, particularly among young men and women of color. By taking Bell's song lyrics literally rather than as forms of artistic expression, both the school and the Fifth Circuit essentially delegitimized rap as an art form that is entitled to full protection under the Constitution.

The brief became popular with articles in Rolling Stone, SPIN and The New York Times after big time rappers Killer Mike, T. I., and Big Boi signed on with their support. From The New York Times:

"Anyone who is learned in law," Killer Mike said, "is capable of separating art and lyrics, whether you agree with them or not, and actual human behavior. I think the courts understand it when it's Johnny Cash. I think they understand it when it's Robert Nesta Marley."

It wouldn't be the first time that rap music was misunderstood by authorities. Back in 1989, groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A. faced a First Amendment fight with their song "Fuck the Police." For more, watch "Gov't Tried to Shut Down Rap in Straight Outta Compton, and They're Still Doing It."

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  1. OT because I can: I am on a three day gun-cleaning marathon, taking occasional breaks to hang a door. My wife wanted a dutch door on our bedroom so I made the dutch door and now it is in the hanging stage. I have hung many doors but never a dutch door. Seems pretty straightforward.

    Anyone have any tips I should know about?

    1. Depending on the gap between the two, I’d suggest hanging the bottom first, as it’s the latching one. The top should be easy, it’s probably slide bolting to the bottom one. Good luck!

    2. I have no tips but a burning curiosity.

      Whay a Dutch door on a bedroom ?

      Is it to keep short people out yet still hear what they are up to ?

      1. His wife wants it, the domestic equivalent of FYTW.

        1. You can be right or you can be happy.

      2. To keep the dogs in the room at night but the top open allows heat from the fireplace to drift into the room. Also, what The Hyperbole said.

      3. To make it easier for the voyeurs to watch Suthenboy and his wife getting it on.


    3. Hang a regular door and then chainsaw it in half?

    1. You do realize that’s the Russian Department of Propaganda site?

      1. Sure, but I fail to see how that invalidates the survey.

        Even the New York Times occasionally publishes stories that are true. Propaganda outlets are generally fairly circumspect about not publishing outright lies that can be easily falsified, it’s the stories they omit that give the game away. See “Reason coverage of Rotherham” for an example.

    2. Fearful Germans? What could go wrong?

    1. I dunno, they looked average height to me.

  2. How has a straightforward free speech case managed to make it all the way to the Supreme Court? Are the lower courts that bereft of sense? Or is it because the defendant is a black teenager, and has to have his superhuman strength and aggression quashed before he can even act on it?

    1. Because FYTW

    2. Because FYTW

    3. Listen, you just don’t fuck with football in Mississippi.

    4. The lower courts are bereft of intelligence and jurisprudence. Even after Heller and McDonald there are still lower courts arguing that bans o assault weapons are legal. Hell almost half of the SCOTUS thinks that too.

      1. Indeed, the lower courts are likely trying to find good “corner” cases that will allow them to carve out exceptions to Heller piece-by-piece. Plus they hope that if they drive enough cases upward, eventually Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and/or Kennedy will waffle and undermine Heller directly.

  3. By taking Bell’s song lyrics literally rather than as forms of artistic expression, both the school and the Fifth Circuit essentially delegitimized rap as an art form that is entitled to full protection under the Constitution.

    Yeah, 1A. Fine, I get it.

    But how in fuck does a government school think it has the authority to punish a student based on a non-school related activity?

    1. Because how dare a student do something hte State doesn’t approve of! Basically, Because, reasons.

    2. That’s my question as well.

      It’s none of their business and what the hell makes these administrators think they have the power to rule a kids life off campus and not at a school function ?

      Do they think they should be dictating his bed times and t programs also ?

      1. Do they think they should be dictating his bed times and t programs also ?

        for starters.

      2. One thing that I’ve learned through the homeschooling fight is that school teachers and administrators have little respect for parents. Their platonic view of education leaves them wishing they didn’t have deal with parents. Were it not for the Texas constitution they’d have really minimized parent’s influence in raising their own offspring.

        1. I remember those dunces from college. I went to a school that had the best education department in the state. The education majors were easily an average of 10 IQ points lower than all the others.

          1. That’s my experience as well, though I’ve have met some teachers of at least average intelligence. The Education college seemed to attract many who wanted a degree, and a profession (of sorts), but didn’t want to work very hard for it.

            1. In fairness I did have some first rate teachers, but they were few and far between. My college profs were great save one or two but then I was in the science department and didn’t have to put up with SJW types.

              1. I had a lot of great teachers in HS. I had some (fewer) shitty ones too. The problem is there is no way to weed out the shitty ones.

          2. Neat. Education majors and teachers aren’t the same group.

            Your comment was telling about someone’s IQ, but it wasn’t education majors’…

            1. Someday, Acosmist will offer an argument instead of a whine. And on that day, an angel will get its wings, a pig will fly, and communism will work.

        2. To be fair, based on what I’ve heard from a friend who went into teaching, some of those parents really are awful.

          1. The problem is that there is no accountability either way. The shitty parents have no incentive to be better and the shitty teachers have no incentive to be better.

            Everybody seems to agree that good teachers + good parents + good students = good outcomes, but for some reason, anything that even approaches privatization of the educational system, creating more options for teachers, parents, and students, is the most evil thing since Hitler came to Jewtown.

    3. The state is the biggest bully of them all.

    4. But how in fuck does a government school think it has the authority to punish a student based on a non-school related activity?

      As a serious answer, the courts have been VERY generous with the loco parentis concept- the worst in that regard has been Justice Thomas. As a simple and obvious example, drug testing, where students are punished for activities well outside of school (presumably, though I *may* have gotten high a few times behind the cafeteria). So the question becomes, how far does the State actually reach into the students’ lives? I have my opinion on what’s right and just, based on simple reading of the constitution, but my opinion doesn’t mean shit to the jackboots.

      1. The state drug testing students is an abomination.

        1. “State” and “students” in the same sentence is an abomination. But if drug testing is allowed (which the courts say it is), then what they’re trying to pull here isn’t too far off.

    5. Just as anything that might affect commerce (everything) is governed by the commerce clause, anything that might have an effect on a student’s performance in school (everything) is governed by the school.

    6. Because they are considering it a threat of force. That’s the real question. Shoud or can they? It has nothing to do with censorship.

  4. I am sick of seeing ads for fake charities. Save the children. Save the elephants. Save abused animals. They play those over and over and over. I wish I could get my wife to turn the TV off.

    Remind me again why everyone hates us so much? c/cb/World_Giving_Index_2015_Heat_Map.pdf

    My grandfather once said to me “If you want someone to hate you just try to have a little something more than they do. If you really want them to hate your guts then give them something for free.”

    1. I keep seeing an ad with some unknown celebrity named Kale Cocoa who wants to ban seal hunting.

      1. We should just ban hunting of all cute and cuddly animals.

      2. I heard that some Inuit girl sent a video message that basically said “Fuck you, we have to eat.” in response to that.

        1. Another instance of prog in-fighting – they celebrate traditional culture except when it gets icky.

      3. Besides, Kale Cocoa sounds like a chocolate salad.

    2. There seem to be a boat load of ministries begging for money this time of year, as well. It’s too easy to get tax exempt status for such things. Were I not married I might like to start up a Ministry for Lonely Housewives.

      1. Were I not married I would start up a charity for wayward young women of questionable moral character.

        1. Sounds good, too, but I like the MILF angle.

          1. The “M” in “MILF” stands for “not going to make you wear a condom”.

        2. “…wayward young women of questionable moral character.”

          This may not mean who you want it to mean. Be careful.

          Hell is having your dreams come true.

          1. It’s not like I’m going to leave my wallet or sharp objects lying around.

    3. They hate us for Sugar Freeing links?

  5. “You can’t take away people’s right to be assholes!” – Simon Phoenix

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