In Historic Opinion, Third Circuit Protects Public School Students’ Off-Campus Social Media Speech

BY SOPHIA COPE: For More Info, Go Here…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an historic opinion in B.L. v. Mahanoy Area School District, upholding the free speech rights of public school students. The court adopted the position EFF urged in our amicus brief that the First Amendment prohibits disciplining public school students for off-campus social media speech.

B.L. was a high school student who had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and was placed on junior varsity instead. Out of frustration, she posted—over the weekend and off school grounds—a Snapchat selfie with text that said, among other things, “fuck cheer.” One of her Snapchat connections took a screen shot of the “snap” and shared it with the cheerleading coaches, who suspended B.L. from the J.V. squad for one year. She and her parents sought administrative relief to no avail, and eventually sued the school district with the help of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In its opinion protecting B.L.’s social media speech under the First Amendment, the Third Circuit issued three key holdings.

Social Media Post Was “Off-Campus” Speech

Vulgar Off-Campus Social Media Speech is Not Punishable

Off-Campus Social Media Speech That “Substantially Disrupts” the On-Campus Environment is Not Punishable

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