U The Supreme Court ruled today that a high school in Pennsylvania violated the First Amendment rights of a student suspended from the cheerleading team, following Snapchat messages where he criticized the school explicitly. The judgment sets a stronger standard for how schools can punish students for off-campus speech, something that is even more common these days with social networks like Snapchat. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision, which also found that the school, Mahoney Area High School, violated Brandi Levy’s First Amendment rights.
After failing to make the school’s college cheerleaders team in 2017, Levy posted two Snapchat messages with a friend while in a local store. “F- school f- softball f- joy f- everything,” he wrote in his first message, according to CNBC. He titled his follow-up message with “Love me as I am [another student] They said we need a year of jv before we go to university but tha[t] doesn’t it matter to anyone? “And of course, it was accompanied by a face-to-face emoji.
“While public schools may have a particular interest in regulating some off-campus student discourse, the special interests offered by the school are not enough to overcome BL’s [Brandi Levy’s] interest in free speech in this case, “Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer wrote in the ruling. While the Court says schools have some ability to regulate speech off a student’s campus, including situations such as and persecution of teachers and severe intimidation.
But when it comes to this case, Breyer wrote that the school has not passed three measures to regulate off-campus speech. First, schools rarely take the place of parents when students are off-campus. In addition, the courts should be more skeptical when schools try to regulate off-campus speech, because it essentially allows them to find problems with everything a student says during the day. Finally, Breyer wrote that public schools are also interested in protecting the Free Word, because it serves as the “lifeblood of Democracy.”
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