Itawamba schools sued over rap song discipline

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – An Itawamba high school student and his mother filed suit Thursday over his punishment for a “rap” song about Itawamba school coaches.
Taylor Bell, 18, and Dora Bell claim the Itawamba School District violated his constitutional rights to free speech and due process when he was suspended from school for seven days and then sent to the alternative school for five weeks because of the song, which was posted on the social network site Facebook.
The defendants are the Itawamba County School District, Superintendent Teresa McNeece and Itawamba Agricultural High School Principal Trae Wiygul.
School board attorney Michele Floyd could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
The Bells are asking for $1 in damages and his reinstatement to IAHS.
They also want the defendants to admit that their disciplinary action against Taylor exceeded their authority and for his record to be expunged of all references to the incident.
Columbus attorney Will Colom represents the Bells.
Their complaint insists that the song was produced off school property, without using school resources, was never played or performed at school, wasn’t performed at a school-sponsored event and was never accessed by Bell on school property.
They claim Taylor has had “no serious disciplinary troubles” and has not been disrespectful toward any teachers or officials at IAHS.
They say his song – “PSK The Truth Needs to be Told” – was inspired by reports that two coaches were inappropriately touching female students.
He posted the song on Facebook Jan. 3 and allegedly was taken out of class four days later to meet with Wiygul, McNeece and Floyd.
On Jan. 14, he reportedly was told he was suspended indefinitely, pending a hearing.
The hearing was held Jan. 26, when the song was played for the disciplinary committee, which recommended his suspension and school change. Feb. 7, the school board accepted the findings and discipline.