The Supreme Court’s Next Big Free Speech Showdown
In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court forbade public school officials from punishing students for exercising their First Amendment rights on school grounds unless the speech at issue “would materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline and in the operation of the school.” In the coming months, the Court will hear arguments in a new case that asks whether that rule should be interpreted to allow school officials to punish students for certain off-campus social media posts.
The case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. originated in 2017 when a then-high school freshman and junior varsity cheerleading team member took to the social media site Snapchat in order to complain about her failure to make the varsity cheerleading squad. The student—known by the initials B.L. in court filings because she is a minor—posted a picture of herself and one of her friends with their middle fingers raised. The post went up on a Saturday. Its accompanying text read “fuck school fuck
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