On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided (8-1) with a former cheerleader who, after posting a profanity-laced snapchat on social media, was cut from her cheerleading squad. The Court held that the school’s punishment for her off-campus speech violated the First Amendment.
Several of the justices said during oral arguments that they were wary of setting a hard-and-fast standard for when schools could regulate off-campus speech, and that hesitancy was reflected in the majority opinion. The court held that schools can sometimes punish a student for something said at home but that their power to do so is more limited than at school. Complicated questions regarding online bullying and hate speech, therefore, are left unanswered.
The standard for on-campus speech is more clear. In 1969, a landmark Supreme Court decision, Tinker v. Des Moines, reaffirmed students' First Amendment rights at school, but the court said teachers and principals may regulate student speech in situations when it "materially disrupts" the operation of the school. That case involved a group of students who wore black armbands to protest the war in Vietnam.
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