B.L. vs. Mahanoy Area School District
School districts must be able to address legitimately harmful speech such as bullying, harassment, and threats of violence- whether or not it occurs on school grounds – but must be very specific and distinct with their actions to not overextend their authority, an amicus brief filed Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court states. The amicus brief asks the court to create a standard that does not prevent schools from responding to off-campus speech that invades a student’s right to be safe and to access equal educational opportunity (such as harassment and bullying), while also making clear that certain student off-campus speech, such as student activism, remains protected under the First Amendment.
The amicus brief was filed in support of the student in B.L. vs. Mahanoy Area School District, and submitted by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Women’s Law Center, Lambda Legal, pro-bono counsel Ropes & Gray LLP and more than thirty other organizations. The case involves a 14-year-old high school student who was suspended from the school’s cheerleading team for using expletives on her personal social media after she failed to make the varsity team. The post occurred on the student’s Snapchat, off school grounds, on a weekend, and did not mention the school. The two courts below ruled that her school violated her First Amendment rights.