US Supreme Court rules for cheerleader punished for vulgar Snapchat message

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"[F***] school [f***] softball [f***] cheer [f***] everything", read her Snapchat message, which was up for 24 hours and had a photo of her and a friend raising their middle fingers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of the cheerleader, saying the school violated her First Amendment rights.

Brandi Levy, the cheerleader who has since graduated from high school, was kicked off the junior varsity team for a foul-mouthed social media post that the legal battle in 2017. And of course, it was accompanied by an upside down smiley face emoji.

Justice Samuel Alito added in a concurring opinion joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch that "while the decision to enroll a student in a public school may be regarded as conferring the authority to regulate some off-premises speech - enrollment can not be treated as a complete transfer of parental authority over a student's speech".

"T$3 he school argues that it was trying to prevent disruption, if not within the classroom, then within the bounds of a school-sponsored extracurricular activity", Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in an opinion that was joined by all of his colleagues but Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented.

Though he acknowledged, "Unlike the Third Circuit, we do not believe the special characteristics that give schools additional license to regulate student speech always disappear when a school regulates speech that takes place off-campus".

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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. First, schools rarely take the place of parents when students are away from campus.

The school district and those who sided with it said that schools should be able to punish off-campus speech like Levy's as part of their efforts to regulate cyber-bullying. "But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary", he wrote, using Levy's initials because that was how she was identified in the original lawsuit. Some of our stories include affiliate links.

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.

"B.L. uttered the kind of pure speech to which, were she an adult, the First Amendment would provide strong protection", Justice Breyer wrote.

Thomas also highlighted an issue that's been nagging at the Supreme Court and other federal courts for years - that federal law is struggling to keep up with rapid advances in technology. "L.'s posts, while crude, did not amount to fighting words". "The school's regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances", including bullying, harassment, threats, cheating and other violations of school rules. How much less authority do schools have over off-campus speech and conduct?

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote the opinion citing sections of the Ohio Revised Code that requires peace officer training, saying a certain provision "does not provide schools with a mechanism to circumvent that requirement". At issue was whether that authority extended beyond the schoolhouse gates. Levy and her parents sued the district, seeking reinstatement as a cheerleader and a judgment that her First Amendment rights had been violated.

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