The First Amendment Should Protect Students in and Outside the Classroom

MiZion F. - LLI Columbus

The first amendment protects the student’s right to make rap lyrics on his own terms away from school grounds. Although the constitutional rights of students in public schools aren’t corresponding to the rights of adults in other settings, the school cannot regulate his lyrics because they were constructed off campus (Porter v. Ascension Parish School Board). In August 2001, a senior named Taylor Bell who attends Itawamba Agricultural School, recorded a rap song and posted it on Facebook and YouTube. The song criticizes two coaches at the school through accusations of sexual assault and other vulgar language.

After the school found out about the song, he was taken out of class and met with the principle, district superintendent, and school board attorney. After returning to school some days later, he was told he would be indefinitely suspended. The committee of the school board decided that Taylors’s actions constituted “harassment, intimidation, and threats against the teachers. He was suspended for several days and transferred to an alternative school for five weeks. The Itawamba county school board upheld the punishment and its reasons. Ultimately, the court decided that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed with prejudice. If the first amendment protects free speech, that shouldn’t be changed in any circumstances. The school shouldn’t be able to alter the rights of a student, especially if they are off campus.

It’s bad enough that youth rarely have a voice in today’s society, so schools should not be a part of that issue.

Students should be able to express their ideas and speak out about their experiences without fear or suppression (11 Rights all Students should have) and schools should enable that. It’s bad enough that youth rarely have a voice in today’s society, so schools should not be a part of that issue. Sometimes schools punish students whose only offense is posting an online comment that the school doesn’t like (Do students still have free speech in School). At least if schools are going to make some type of alterations on student behavior, then let it be based on logical reasoning. Not simple arbitrary disapproval of student’s comments. At the end of the day, the first amendment rights should protect the speech of students in and out of the classroom.

Sources Considered:

  • Bell v. Itawamba Cty. Sch. Bd., 859 F. Supp. 2d 834, 836 (N.D. Miss. 2012).
  • Wallenstein, Andrew. "The Hip-Hop Case the Supreme Court Should Reject." Web blog post. Variety. 22 Feb. 2016. 
  • Liptak, Adam. "Hip Hop Stars Support Mississippi Rapper in First Amendment Case." Web blog post. Sidebar. The New York Times Company, 20 Dec. 2015. 
  • Stern, Mark, J. "Judges Have No Idea What to Do About Student Speech on the Internet." Web blog post. Future Tense. Slate, 18 Feb. 2016.  
  • Crowley, Brian. "Supreme Court Refuses to Provide Clarity on Discipline for Off-Campus, Online Student Speech." Web blog post. Education Law Insights. Lexology, 29 February 2016. 
  • "School was Right to Expel Student Over Violent Poetry." eSchoolNews. Eschool Media Sites. 1 Aug. 2001.