This post was authored by Adam Santucci and Daniel Serrano. Adam is the Chair of the Public Finance and Government Services Group at McNees. Danny is a CAMP 1L Intern with McNees. Danny is currently a student at the Pennsylvania State University and expects to earn his J.D. in May of 2023.
On June 23, 2021, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. v. B.L., holding that a high school’s interest in preventing students from using vulgar language to criticize school sports teams or staff does not override students’ rights to free expression under the First Amendment. The Court made clear that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression” even “at the school house gate.”
Here is the background. After being denied a position on the school’s varsity cheerleading team, B.L., a ninth-grader at Mahanoy Area School District, messaged a group of 250 “friends” on the social media platform Snapchat, where she expressed frustration with the school and cheerleading team. Her messages used “vulgar language and gestures” while criticizing the school and cheerleading team. Although the images and messages were set to expire within 24 hours, the images spread throughout the school and were brought to the attention of the cheerleading coaches. As a result, the school suspended B.L. from cheerleading for a year. In response to the school’s disciplinary actions, B.L.’s parents appealed the suspension to the school board with no success. When that failed, they sought relief in federal court.
Continue Reading Cheerleader’s Vulgar Snapchat Trashing Cheer Team is Protected Speech