If you have the opportunity to do so, I recommend that you go to www.scotusblog.com this morning to hear the oral arguments in the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. If you can’t tune in at that time, you can listen to a recording of the arguments later. This case could result in the most important decision about student free speech since Mary Beth Tinker wore that famous black armband to her middle school in Des Moines, Iowa.
The stakes are high. The Circuit Courts can’t seem to agree on the standard that should apply to student speech that takes place away from the school campus. In days long ago, a geographical distinction between “on campus” and “off campus” speech made sense. In today’s world, it makes no sense. So what should the standard be?
The student in this case had a brief temper tantrum on Snapchat, featuring four consecutive F-bombs aimed at cheerleading, softball, the school, and “everything.” The school suspended her from cheerleading for a year, and she sued, claiming that this was an unconstitutional infringement of her First Amendment rights. At the 3rd Circuit she won, so it’s the school district that seeks a reversal from the High Court.
Numerous advocacy groups have weighed in. So has the Biden Administration, which supports the school’s position. This is a lot of fuss and bother over whether or not a high school student gets to be on the cheerleading squad. But, of course, there is much more at stake. If the Court upholds the Circuit Court ruling without modification, it will hamstring efforts by school officials to address cyberbullying and sexual harassment. That’s why there is so much interest.
No doubt we will talk about this on the next Zooming with the Dawg—May 21. Mark your calendar now.
DAWG BONE: MAHANOY AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. B.L. TODAY.
Tomorrow: Finding a “comparator” is not so easy….