A New York Student Sues School District After Suspension for Using Anti-Gay Terms; Says They Were Used Ironically


An LGBTQ+ rapper is suing his school district after he was being suspended for using an anti-gay slur he says he was appropriating. "A junior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua has sued the school district over its decision to issue him a three-day suspension for his use of an anti-gay slur in rap music recorded off campus, arguing that the school's sanction violated his First Amendment rights," reports the local New York website The Journal News/Lohud.com.

In the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, the out 17-year-old explained he "occasionally freestyles rap lyrics with his friends" and came up with the lyric that contained two offensive terms one night in 2022. After a friend posted their rap on SoundCloud without his knowledge, the school received two complaints.

The student argues in his lawsuit that the use of the terms – "f**g*t" and "twink" – was meant to be ironic. His intent was to "reclaim a word that has been used as a slur against him and the LGBTQ community in general." He adds that the themes in the freestyle rap were "intentionally over-the top parodies of rap music's obsession with violence, crime, and sexuality."

"The lawsuit additionally invokes a new legal precedent granting greater free speech protections to student conduct off-campus," reports The Journal News. "In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. that schools have a considerably narrower interest in regulating student speech that occurs off-campus."

The student also claims that without reversal of the suspension, his forthcoming college applications will be weighed down by disclosure of the discipline.

The Journal News reported that they sent an email to Chappaqua superintendent Christine Ackerman seeking comment, but it was not immediately returned. The student is being represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a prominent free-speech advocacy organization.

The outlet also contacted Bennett Gershman, a constitutional law professor at Pace University's Elisabeth Haub School of Law, who said he was "skeptical" of Horace Greeley's move to discipline the student, given the guardrails laid out in the Mahanoy case.

"I think the school goes beyond its authority to stop students from engaging in this type of speech-related activity when there is no clear connection between their communications and anything related to a special need of the school," he said. "The school really has no place here unless it directly affects academics in school or individuals in school."

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