Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer noted that the school district overreached in disciplining Levy for only throwing a few f-bombs on social media.
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. The school district appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing it needed to regulate off-campus speech to keep students safe from cyberbullying.
In the high court's opinion, the majority of the justices said there was no evidence of substantial disruption and the school did violate Ms. They did clarify that in this specific case it was wrong for the school to have punished the girl so harshly, but it may be ok for schools to intervene in future cases- especially those that veer into criminal activity or cyber bullying.
In a 4-3 decision issued this morning, the majority of the justices agreed state law requires advanced training before staff can carry concealed weapons on campus.
By an 8-1 vote, the court declared that school administrators do have the power to punish student speech that occurs online or off campus if it genuinely disrupts classroom study. "L.'s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein", Breyer wrote for the Supreme Court.
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".
In that case the Supreme Court sided with the students, declaring students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate". Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, noting he would have upheld the suspension.
"But the Court's foundation is untethered from anything stable, and courts (and schools) will nearly certainly be at a loss as to what exactly the Court's opinion today means", Justice Thomas added. "But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary".
"The school's regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances", it continued. Instead, Breyer listed "three features of off-campus speech" that should be considered.
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Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District from 1969 gave students the right to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.
Second, the court warned that a school must be careful in regulating off-campus speech because it could go too far in censoring political or religious speech.
The Court overrides that decision - without even mentioning the 150 years of history supporting the coach.
The case is Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
The Biden administration had argued on behalf of the school.
Precedent in student free speech cases has generally touched on two key components: whether the physical location of the student limits their right to free speech, and whether the speech itself rises to the level of "disruptive".
Student speech advocates will likely claim the ruling as a victory, although it was very narrow.
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.