With a 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the school district's argument that it did have that authority as needed "to discipline speech that disrupts the campus or harms other students", per the Post-Gazette. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds, relying on a precedent from a different era.
Brandi Levy, now an 18-year-old college freshman, was a ninth grader at Mahanoy Area High School who had just failed to make the varsity cheer squad when she chose to air her frustrations on social media.
Brandi Levy speaks with Fox News' David Spunt about a Supreme Court case stemming from a pair of shapchats she posted as a sophomore in high school. Levy's subsequent apologies did not move school officials and the coaches suspended her from the cheerleading team for a year. And of course, it was accompanied by an upside down smiley face emoji. But, in a win for educators, the justices also preserved public schools' power to sometimes regulate speech that occurs off campus, declining to endorse a lower court decision that found that the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of free speech prohibited extending officials' authority outside the school.More news: Hong Kong pro-democracy paper to close
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion, ultimately concluded, "While public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech, the special interests offered by the school are not sufficient to overcome B". While the Court says schools have some ability to regulate a student's off-campus speech, including situations like teacher harassment and severe bullying.
Thomas continued to argue that the Supreme Court's student-speech jurisprudence is "untethered from any textual or historical foundation" and said the majority "depart [ed] from the historical rule" without explaining why. "L.'s interest in free expression". Some of our stories include affiliate links.
But Levy's speech did not fit, he wrote.More news: Sydney to mask up again after spike in COVID-19 cases
The justices did not foreclose schools from disciplining students for what they say off campus, though they did not spell out when schools could act.
The Supreme Court largely concurred. "L.'s posts, while crude, did not amount to fighting words". If today's decision teaches any lesson, it must be that the regulation of many types of off-premises student speech raises serious First Amendment concerns, and school officials should proceed cautiously before venturing into this territory.
"Putting aside the vulgar language, the listener would hear criticism, of the team, the team's coaches, and the school - in a word or two, criticism of the rules of a community of which B.L. forms a part", Justice Breyer wrote. The board noted that 47 states have laws requiring schools to enforce anti-bullying policies already on the books. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Levy and her parents in the lawsuit against Mahanoy Area School District, had argued that students need protection from censorship and monitoring of their beliefs. "Unlike Tinker, which involved a school's authority under a straightforward fact pattern", Thomas wrote, "this case involves speech made in one location but capable of being received in countless others-an issue that has been aggravated exponentially by recent technological advances". Levy and her parents sued the district, seeking reinstatement as a cheerleader and a judgment that her First Amendment rights had been violated.More news: Border Closure between USA and Canada extended