306 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501
A federal district court in Mississippi has upheld the right of a school district to punish a student for posting a rap video on his personal Facebook page.
Parents of a high school student filed suit in federal court after the teenager was suspended for composing and recording a song that accused two athletic coaches of flirting and having inappropriate sexual contact with female students. The video was produced and recorded away from school grounds, and the student did not use a school-owned computer to create or post the content.
The suit contended that district officials disciplined the student for constitutionally protected speech, violated parenting rights of his mother, and that the student's speech was entitled to additional protections because it addressed a matter of public concern.
In it's ruling, the court sided with the school district on all three counts, relying on the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court decision, which held that school officials can regulate off-campus expression that causes a material or substantial disruption at school.
After reviewing the song lyrics that alleged sexual misconduct and made threats against the staff, the court ruled that the school board was correct in upholding a disciplinary committee's recommendation that the song constituted harassment and intimidation of school employees. The decision also backed school officials for issuing the discipline, writing that school officials had a reasonable expectation that the incident could lead to disruption.
On the matter of whether the school breached the mother's parenting rights, the court also ruled in favor of the district, saying the plaintiffs failed to show the punishments "were not tied to a school's compelling interest of a legitimate maintenance of school order."