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Judge Upholds Punishment for Student's Online Rap About Coaches

A federal district judge upheld a seven-day suspension today for a Mississippi high school student who rapped about two of his school's coaches, accusing them of improper conduct with female students, my colleague Mark Walsh reports.

The case involves Taylor Bell, who was a senior at Itawamba (Miss.) Agricultural School last fall. Bell recorded and uploaded a rap song to Facebook and YouTube in which he suggested the two coaches were involved in improper conduct, using "clearly vulgar language," according to the case.

U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers applied the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision of 1969 to this case, saying that because Bell uploaded the video to a worldwide audience on YouTube, he "clearly intended to publish to the public the content of the song."

Therefore, it doesn't matter whether he wrote and posted the song online at school or not; "the Tinker standard applies" regardless, the judge wrote in his opinion.

One of the coaches testified that he felt threatened by some of the lyrics of the song, according to Mark. One such verse: "looking down girls' shirts / drool running down your mouth / messing with wrong one / going to get a pistol down your mouth."

The moral of the story: If you decide to write a potentially libelous song about one of the coaches at your high school, make sure you don't post it on a public forum on the Internet.

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