Lawyer: Raleigh private school forced students out for reciting rap song lyrics

Two students who recently withdrew from St. David's School in Raleigh because of a video in which they made repeated racial slurs were merely reciting the lyrics to a rap song, the lawyer for one of the boys defended.

The five-second clip of cellphone video showed one student holding a beer can, and both said the N-word several times.

Raleigh attorney Woody Webb, who represents one of the boys, said they were initially suspended for seven days.

But an online petition that garnered nearly 800 signatures pushed for them to be expelled, calling the video "deeply offensive and hurtful to many." Some of those who signed the petition said the suspension wasn't a harsh enough punishment.

"My client asked to meet with the board multiple times to tell them that he is not a hateful, racist, vulgar, obscene person," Webb said, noting the boy had been at St. David's for six years and had "very strong friendships" there.

"He's a good guy," the attorney said.

Webb said the boys were merely reciting the lyrics to "Hate," a song by Peruvian rapper Yung Caza. The lyrics contain the N-word 154 times.

"It wasn't their words. They were just repeating a rap song. That's all they were doing," he said.

St. David's board refused to meet with Webb's client and told him and the other boy to either withdraw or they would be expelled. Both withdrew.

In a letter sent Tuesday to parents of other students, Head of School Matt Hillegass called the video "horrific."

"The work of our mission, happening across campus each day to cultivate our students in faith, virtue and knowledge, is squarely opposed to the sentiments displayed in the video, and those sentiments will not be fostered or safe-harbored at St. David's School. The behavior on display in this incident must not happen again," Hillegass wrote in the letter.

"St. David's is committed to pursuing reconciliations and healing where possible in the days ahead," he added.

Webb said many teens listen to Yung Caza and other rappers, such as Lil Baby, who recently appeared in concert at Raleigh's Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek.

"From my understanding, about half the school at Saint David's went to [that concert]," Webb said. "The lyrics from Lil Baby were about the same as the lyrics my client is paying a heavy price for."

Now, he said, the student is having trouble getting into another school because of the situation, saying one "wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole." The boy and his family are considering legal action against St. David's.

"I hope, in hindsight, my client would say, 'I'll never do that again,'" Webb said.

Emilia Beskind, a Durham attorney representing the other former student, declined to comment Wednesday.