High School Cheerleader’s Profane Social Media Rant Is Protected Free Speech, Says SCOTUS
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today that a Pennsylvania public school district violated the First Amendment when it punished a high school freshman for posting a profane, off-campus rant on the social media site Snapchat about her failure to make the varsity cheerleading squad. “It might be tempting to dismiss [the cheerleader’s] words as unworthy of…robust First Amendment protections,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority. “But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”
The matter of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. originated with these words: “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” They were posted to Snapchat on a Saturday night and were accompanied by a picture of B.L. (known by her initials in court filings because she was a minor at the time) and a friend with their middle fingers raised. To say the least, B.L.’s cheerleading coaches did not like that post when it was later brought to their attention. As punishment for it, B.L. was suspended from the junior varsity cheerleading team for a full year. The question before the Supreme Court was whether school officials may punish her for this off-campus speech.
The Supreme Court ruled today that the school may not. At the same time, however, the Court made it clear that its decision was not a sweeping one. In fact, the majority stressed that under certain circumstances, schools may punish students for speech that occurs off-campus. “Thus, we do not now set forth a broad, highly general First Amend
Article from Latest – Reason.com