Itawamba board says song posed threat to district

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – Itawamba school officials say they have every right to discipline a high school student for an Internet song about two coaches.
In their legal answer to a Feb. 24 lawsuit, the officials said the song depicted “sexually explicit, indecent or lewd speech” directed at employees of the Itawamba County School Board, and amounted to harassment and intimidation.
The school board filed its response Friday, saying it considered the song by Taylor Bell to be a direct threat to its ability to maintain order and decorum.
It asks the court to dismiss his lawsuit and award the defendants their attorney fees and court costs.
Bell and his mother, Dora, of Fulton sued the board, Superintendent of Education Teresa McNeece and Itawamba Agricultural High School Principal Trae Wiygul in U.S. District Court. They claimed the 18-year-old’s free speech and due process constitutional rights were violated by a seven-day suspension and assignment to the alternative school for five weeks.
He claimed his song, created off school grounds, “vaguely references” two athletic coaches accused of misconduct toward female students.
The board’s legal answer said Bell’s song is not covered by free speech because it does not deal with a public concern.
The district also said it was correct to discipline Bell because failure to do so for similar threats would impinge on the rights of other students.
The matter is scheduled for a May 4 telephone case-management conference with Magistrate Jerry A. Davis.
Contact Patsy Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.