Metro Weekly

LGBTQ Teen Sues School Over Suspension For Rap Lyrics

A 17-year-old is suing his New York school district for suspending him over a freestyle rap using "twink" and "f****t."

Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York. – Photo: Linkedin

An LGBTQ teenager from one of New York City’s toniest suburbs has sued the Chappaqua Central School District for suspending him for impromptu rap lyrics containing an anti-LGBTQ slur.

The Horace Greeley High School junior, identified as “OJ” in court documents, says he was secretly recorded by his friends while “freestyling” — in which a rapper improvises an unwritten verse off the top of their head.

OJ was at his friend’s house rapping for him and an acquaintance from another school, who is also an amateur rapper. OJ’s friends recorded his lyrics and mashed it with lyrics the acquaintance sang to create a single song. He later uploaded to SoundCloud without OJ’s knowledge or permission.

According to court documents, some of the song’s objectionable lyrics included, “We split a bottle of beer, you know, fuck a couple of twinks,” and “F****t, fart balls. F****t, fart balls.”

OJ admits to using the word “f****t” in the rap, as well as the term “twinks” (a slang term referring to younger, thinner gay men with boyish appearances), but argues in the lawsuit that his lyrics were deliberately “tongue-in-cheek” and were satirical, intended to parody rap music’s “obsession with violence, crime, and sexuality.”

Ten days after the song was uploaded to SoundCloud, Horace Greeley administrators received two anonymous complaints about the piece that pointed to OJ as one of the teens behind it.

While other inflammatory language was used in the mashed-up rap song, including references to violence and illegal behavior, the only words that school officials ultimately cited in justifying OJ’s suspension were “f*****t” and “twinks,” OJ’s lawyers argued in court documents.

The lawsuit claims school administrators forced OJ to undergo a psychological evaluation to prove he was not a threat to others. They later suspended the 17-year-old under the district’s policy prohibiting “hate speech” due to the homophobic slurs.

“The administrators ultimately held up the suspension because OJ’s lyrics included the words ‘f****t’ and ‘twinks’ — which they deemed hate speech,” the lawsuit states. “They did not care that OJ is a member of the LGBTQ community or that his use of these words was intentionally satirical, self-referential, and self-deprecating.”

The lawsuit adds, “By using the word ‘f****t,’ OJ sought to reclaim a word that has been used as a slur against him and the LGBTQ community in general.”

The suit also names Superintendent Dr. Christine Ackerman and Horace Greeley Principal Dr. Sandra Sepe as defendants.

The Chappaqua Central School District said in a statement that it stands by the suspension. 

“We believe the incident in question was handled both appropriately and legally,” a school district spokesperson said in an email to the New York Post.

OJ’s lawyers also invoked a new legal precedent in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that schools have a considerably narrower interest in regulating off-campus student speech, thereby granting greater free speech protections to students.

They note in court documents that OJ never mentioned his school or anybody in the school’s community during the freestyle rap, which occurred off campus.

As OJ prepares to begin applying to colleges, he fears that the suspension will affect his chances of gaining admission to future schools.

“That suspension jeopardizes his future — and it violates the First Amendment,” FIRE staff attorney Colin McDonell said in a statement to the Post. “Only parents should punish students for the juvenile things they say outside of school.”

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