Supreme Court Delivers Ruling on Free Speech Case

Supreme Court Delivers Ruling on Free Speech Case

( – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) generally publishes the bulk of its opinions every June, and 2021 is no different. The case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. [the initials of the minor child] revolved around the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment and its application between schools and students. They ruled in favor of the student.

The facts of the case are straightforward. B.L. (now identified as Brandi Levy) was finishing her freshman year of high school when she tried out for the varsity cheerleading squad. The coaches instead placed her on the junior varsity team. Displeased with that decision, she took to Snapchat while at a local convenience store over the weekend and dropped several f-bombs and related gestures to complain. When school officials became aware of it, they levied a one-year suspension from cheerleading against her.

She and her parents tried to get the school to overturn their decision, and when the school refused, they filed suit in federal court. At all levels, they were vindicated, with SCOTUS putting a final stamp on it in an 8-1 decision. The majority decided that she enjoyed her first amendment protections because her post was off-campus and outside of school hours.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter, and he took the majority to task for not analyzing why they were ignoring decades of what he felt was precedent. He made an interesting observation that technology like Snapchat blurs the line between what is on and off of school property. He felt that the court did not address the issue adequately.

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