A 14-year-old rapper
who was arrested and then suspended for two years by The Riverside Beaver County
School District in Pennsylvania for posting his battle raps on the internet has
been awarded a $90,000 settlement over his expulsion from school.
Latour, member of an upcoming rap group Just Business, was handcuffed and arrested
in middle school in April of 2005, after another student rapper’s mother
saw lyrics the two were posting back and forth on the internet.
Latour was charged with terroristic threats over the lyrics
to the rap songs.
The same day Latour was arrested, seven police officers with
a K-9 dog searched his parents home and confiscated $10,000 worth of recording
equipment Latour’s parents had purchased for him.
The rapper spent a week in a juvenile detention facility over
the incident and was eventually expelled for two years because of the violent
lyrics that allegedly threatened other students.
“I live in a small town and they really don’t understand
rap music,” Latour told AllHipHop.com. “I didn’t really know
what was happening, it blindsided me.”
The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union
filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Latour in August of 2005, claiming the
school had violated his First Amendment rights.
One of the songs that helped get Latour expelled was titled
“Murder He Wrote,” which lawyers for the ACLU deemed “a third
party narrative song about the incident at columbine [high school in Colorado]
reflecting Anthony’s attempt to imagine what could have been going on
in the heads of the students who perpetuated the tragedy.”
Latour, who said he considers Eminem, Necro and D-Block as his
main influences, said he hails from a small town here people don’t understand
At a May expulsion hearing, the student Latour was battling
admitted he was never threatened and that the two never intended to harm each
In August, attorneys from the ACLU argued that the rapper was
battling and that his lyrics didn’t threaten anyone specifically.
"Anthony’s rap music — by which he flexes his lyrical
muscles — is not a true threat, but is art enjoying full First Amendment protection,”
argued Kim Watterson, a lawyer based in Pittsburgh with the international law
firm Reed Smith, which handled the case on a pro bono basis.
Watterson also called noted Hip-Hop author Bikari Kitwana to
testify on behalf of Latour. Kitwana explained that battle rap can “get
pretty nasty in terms of the language," but was still simply “a verbal
On Monday (Nov. 23), Chief U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose
ruled the songs were protected by the First Amendment and that they were posted
from his home, not school.
The Riverside Beaver County School District must now pay Latour
and his family $90,000.
The school district has also agreed to write a letter acknowledging
that the 14-year-old did not threaten “the school or the students by way
of his songs."
Latour said he
plans to use the majority of his settlement money to upgrade his home recording