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A Cheerleader's Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown

Posted 2021-01-09 by Joe.

A Cheerleader's Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown :

WASHINGTON — It was a Saturday in the spring of 2017, and a ninth-grade student in Pennsylvania was having a bad day. She had just learned that she had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and would remain on junior varsity.

The student expressed her frustration on social media, sending a message on Snapchat to about 250 friends. The message included an image of the student and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with text expressing a similar sentiment. Using a curse word four times, the student expressed her dissatisfaction with "school," "softball," "cheer" and "everything."

[...] The school suspended the student from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to "avoid chaos" and maintain a "teamlike environment."

The student sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory [PDF link] [...] [in which the] court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds.

Next month, [...] the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case. [...] The Third Circuit's ruling is in tension with decisions from several other courts, and such splits often invite Supreme Court review.

In urging the justices to hear the case, the school district said administrators around the nation needed a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on their power to discipline students for what they say away from school.

[...] "In the modern era, a tremendous percentage of minors' speech occurs off campus but online," [legal author and Yale law professor Justin Driver] said. "Judicial decisions that permit schools to regulate off-campus speech that criticizes public schools [...] empower schools to reach into any student's home and declare critical statements verboten, something that should deeply alarm all Americans."

So, during this time of on-line learning, how does one draw the line between school activities and on-line activities?

Also at: Bowling Green Daily News

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