U.S. Supreme Court Says Schools May Not Limit Students’ Freedom of Speech Off-Campus

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a Pennsylvania high school violated the First Amendment of the Constitution in suspending a 14-year-old student after she posted two messages on Snapchat containing vulgar language directed at the school and school officials. The student posted the messages when she was off school grounds.

The Supreme Court considered whether a 1969 ruling, holding that public schools can regulate certain speech, applies to this case. The Court ultimately held that the 1969 ruling does not apply, given that the school “had no special license to regulate student speech occurring off-campus”. The Court and held that the school’s interest in regulating speech is insufficient to overcome the student’s freedom of expression.

Justice Clarence Thomas delivered a dissenting opinion, explaining that schools have the authority to discipline students who convey speech through social media. As per Justice Thomas, speech made on social media can be seen and shared through campus, and therefore runs a greater likelihood of harming the school environment than an ordinary off-campus conversation.

Click HERE to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.