ACLU files suit over rap ejection
The school expelled a student after he posted a threatening rap online.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a school district on behalf of a 14-year-old rap music fan who was expelled after he posted lyrics on the Internet in which, according to police, he threatened to shoot up his school and named a potential victim.
The ACLU said the songs by Anthony Latour, of Ellwood City, are protected speech, among other reasons, because they were composed at home and not brought to school. The suit says Latour's expulsion in May from the Riverside Beaver County School District violated his parents' right to control his upbringing.
"The school may not like Anthony's songs, but it is beyond their ability to dictate what he reads, writes or even raps at home," said Witold "Vic" Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania's legal director.
Latour was expelled for the remainder of the last school year and this coming year. The lawsuit seeks to have Latour admitted to school when classes resume Aug. 31.
"It is our job, not that of school officials, to decide what music Anthony can compose and listen to in our home," Anthony's father, John Latour, said.
School Superintendent David Parry declined to comment citing student confidentiality laws. The district serves about 2,000 pupils in three townships in northern Beaver County, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Latour was removed from class in April by North Sewickley Township police and charged with making terroristic threats and harassment because of lyrics he posted on the Internet. Those charges are still pending in juvenile court, where records are not public in Pennsylvania.
Police didn't return calls to comment, and county prosecutors said they can't comment on juvenile court cases.
However, Walczak said school officials erred because Latour's lyrics -- though violent and profane -- weren't meant to be threats and didn't cause any disruption at school.
The alleged victim told school officials the lyrics Latour e-mailed to him were part of a "battle rap" challenge -- one in which rival rappers try to out-rhyme one another.
One line of that song says: "You're a rook, I'm the king, and I'm cookin' ya quick / I'm lookin' to stab, don't even look for the strap."
Walczak said the alleged threats against the school were contained in one song whose lyrics were never published.
Another song discovered by the mother of a young woman with whom Latour had feuded contains these lyrics: "So watch what you say about me, I'm everywhere son / And the word of mouth is that I'm carrying guns / Now that I'm comin' for you -- what the [expletive] you gonna do / I come double with the pump tons of slugs that will punish you."
The pupils who read the lyrics were identified by pseudonyms in the lawsuit, and couldn't immediately be located to comment.
Walczak contends such violent language is known to be metaphoric in rap circles, and that the school had played another rap song that Latour wrote and recorded in his home at a school dance in December.
Walczak said the alleged target of one threat told school officials during a six-hour expulsion hearing that he didn't feel threatened. Latour was given the opportunity to address that hearing, but didn't, Walczak said.
Police also charged two other boys with beating up an alleged target of the threats because they felt he "ratted out" Latour. Walczak said even if those allegations are true, the incident shouldn't legally be considered a direct result of anything Latour did.
"But in this case, to this day, they have never sat down with Anthony to ask him about these songs ...," Walczak said. "They went straight to the death penalty, which would be expulsion."