HERMON, Maine — A Hermon High School senior who was expelled this week over the lyrics of a rap song he wrote about his school and posted on the Internet now says his First Amendment right to free speech is being violated.
Trevor Moore and some of his supporters have expanded the battle they began on social networking sites to local media outlets.
Moore, who turns 18 next week, said Wednesday he wrote the rap song, titled “Hermon High School,” in an attempt at satire. The aspiring rapper said he meant no harm and he wants to return to school, so he can finish his senior year and graduate.
Others, however, consider his song disruptive and threatening.
At issue is that the expletive-filled rant, rapped to the tune of an Eminem song, names specific school officials, namely the assistant principal and school superintendent, and contains lyrics some see as threatening. An excerpt follows:
[Expletive deleted] it when I come back I’m running amok,
The vandals driving through the doors in a [expletive deleted] Mack truck,
I’m aiming for the emos waiting by the stairs
They wanted to die anyway, the choice is [expletive deleted] theirs.
I’m sick of this place, and everything in it,
So are you, you wanna burn it down, now [expletive deleted] admit it.
“At first it was comedic value and then the school made it this big. I’m just standing up for myself and anybody that is behind me now,” Moore said Wednesday during an informal rally that drew at least 20 teenagers as well as two parents.
Moore, who also posted raps in which he defines the freedom of speech and calls upon school officials to allow him to return to school, said he has assured school officials that he poses no danger.
“I told them that I wasn’t gonna go burn down the school and I wasn’t gonna run through shooting people and that I wasn’t a threat,” he said.
The trouble for Moore began shortly after Sunday, Oct. 10, when he posted “Hermon High School” on his MySpace page.
Two days later, Moore said, he was informed he was suspended and that an expulsion hearing had been scheduled. That hearing, which was conducted in executive session on Monday night, resulted in Moore’s being expelled for the rest of the school year.
The song also was posted on other Internet sites.
While he could not discuss specifics because a student is involved, Hermon High Principal Brian Walsh characterized the matter as a school safety issue.
“One of our No. 1 priorities here is safety and we’re looking at ensuring the safety of the school as a whole,” he said during an interview in his office late Wednesday afternoon. Walsh said he became aware of the song after a concerned parent contacted him.
Since then, Walsh said, the “overwhelming majority” of the roughly 30 parents who have contacted his office have supported the steps administrators have taken to ensure safety and maintain an atmosphere of normalcy.
“Right now we’re trying to decide how to best handle this, or manage this,” Walsh said.
On Wednesday, Moore and his friends claimed that between 20 and 25 students were suspended that day for showing their support of Moore in the form of handmade T-shirts calling for his return to school.
Other students and a staff member who did not wish to be identified, however, pegged the actual number of supporters at four or five.
While Moore, who lives with his grandparents, claims to have the support of most of the student body and many parents, a fellow senior said only a small percentage of Hermon High’s 550 students are caught up in the drama and that they mostly are Moore’s close friends.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a movement. I would call it a pathetic attempt at being rebellious,” the student said, calling the matter “a tempest in a water cooler cup.”
The senior said students buzzed about the rap song “for maybe a day and then most of us moved on.”
Though he admitted that he’d only heard portions of the song, the student called the lyrics “irresponsible of a high school student. It disturbed me a bit,” he said, adding that he and many other students were “not happy with what we heard.”
Sgt. Mike Burgess of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday he has discussed the matter with Moore, who has been warned not to return to school property, and that the incident is still being explored by law enforcement officials.
He said a copy of the lyrics of “Hermon High School” have been forwarded to juvenile corrections authorities and that no charges have been filed in connection with the matter.
At this point, Burgess said, the school “is looking at this as a conduct code violation.” The conduct code prohibits disrespectful or disruptive behavior.
While Moore contends his right to free speech is being violated, Burgess said, “There are limits to free speech. There are some real gray areas as to what was said and done. What he’s not getting is that there are consequences. … What he’s got to be careful of is when he names places and people.”
Wednesday’s rally took place at the home of Tricia Watson, the mother of three children enrolled in Hermon schools.
“I’ve known him all his life,” Watson said. She said the notion that Moore could be considered a menace was laughable, adding that last week’s suspension was his first and that he’d never been in any major trouble before.
“Trevor would take the shirt off his back and give it to anybody; even if he didn’t know you, he’d do it for you,” she said. “He’s a kid.”
Melanie Ripley of Carmel, whose son is a Hermon High freshman, said she gave the song a listen.
“That song rocks,” she said. As she sees it, Moore is calling school officials on what students see as a lack of respect.
Asked if he was surprised about the response his rap has elicited, Moore said:
“Not really because I knew as soon as someone stood up somebody was gonna be behind them because, honestly, if I was bad and rude and ignorant and going about it stupidly I wouldn’t have so much support. Since there are that many people, I must be doing something right, I figure.”
Moore said he has apologized to the superintendent.
“My statements to Patty Duran, I don’t agree with those and I have apologized to her personally, unprovoked, like I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it.
“I walked in and told her, ‘I really don’t know you and I’m sorry for that because I had no basis to go on. Now [as for the assistant principal], I plead the Fifth.”
Duran was attending a conference and was unavailable for comment.