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Social Media Freedom of Speech Upheld by Supreme Court

A Pennsylvania school district was shot down by the Supreme Court 🧑‍⚖️on Wednesday in a landmark social media freedom of speech case. The ruling revolved around the school district punishing a student for a social media post she created while not on school property.

The court voted on a count of eight to one. This ruling puts a categorical ban on student speech moderation outside school property while also recognizing the need for schools to be equipped to deal with bullying.

Because of this ruling, lower courts may need to reconsider the right of administrators to punish hurtful speech outside the school system. This also puts a crucial responsibility on parents to help manage the situation. Here’s a look how the ruling played out and what it means for social media free speech rights.

A Social Media Freedom of Speech Case at the Supreme Court

This Supreme Court case is focused on Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student 🎒. Her school’s varsity cheerleading squad didn’t accept her, and she was very disappointed. Upset, she posted a vulgar message on the popular social media platform Snapchat. The message reached around 250 people.

She sent the message from a popular convenience store with teenagers called Cocoa Hut. The message contained an image of Levy and a friend displaying raised middle fingers and a series of words conveying their attitudes to the situation. Levy allegedly cursed four times in her statement, objecting to her school, cheerleading, and sports in general.

Snapchat messages are designed to disappear after a short time. However, another student took a screenshot of the message and showed a coach 🏐 at the school. As a result, the school suspended Levy from its junior varsity cheerleading squad for one year. The school stated that this was necessary to avoid any trouble and to maintain team comradery.

After the suspension, Levy filed a lawsuit against the school district. The suit fell in her favor with a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. At that time, the court explained that the First Amendment does not permit schools to punish students for their speech outside school property. 

The Events in Court

This is the first time in the last 50 years that a teenager has won a case in the US Supreme Court. The ruling 📝explained that courts should be wary of attempts to restrict off-campus speech. Regardless of the agreed ruling of the Third Circuit for Levy, the judges did state that they felt this restricted schools’ ability to regulate off-campus bullying.

Justice Clarence Thomas stated that this ruling arrived at a time when social media has complicated free speech. He explains that social media allows for various points of view and opinions that might otherwise bring in little notice. The court’s ruling also recognized the need for school systems to determine new protocols for the current era.

Social Media Freedom of Speech: Justice Stephen Breyer’s Take

Justice Stephen G. Breyer had many statements 📝on the result of this lawsuit and its ruling. He explained that schools need to teach their students about the values of free speech. He added that the country’s public schools work as a nursery for democracy, and this democracy only functions if its citizens protect the marketplace for ideas.

Breyer believes that the appeals court overstepped. He explained that unlike the Third circuit, his collective does approve of the unique features that give schools the authority to monitor student speech📱. He added that this vanishes when schools moderate off-campus free speech.

Breyer went on to state that in certain off-campus instances, a school may want to intervene. He listed harassment, threats, and severe bullying as a few of the instances that my warrant school action, saying that the appeals court did not consider this fully.

Breyer suggests that instead of a categorical ruling, courts should consider three factors when decided whether to permit schools to moderate free speech from students off-campus. He thinks parents rather than school officials should moderate free speech off campus. The premise of constant surveillance conflicts with free speech interests, and schools should educate children that unpopular speech is notable for protection.

What’s Right and Wrong for Social Media Freedom of Speech?

The highest court in the land has protected Levy’s freedom of speech in this case. However, the school claims to have acted in the best interests ✔️of the campus and the students. Despite this, the court recognized that the school overstepped its authority by taking disciplinary action against Levy.

What is certain is that this is hardly the first case regarding social media freedom of speech to hit the US. If you have experienced any form of misconduct regarding social media content, then you should speak with an attorney. A social media attorney can assist by providing legal advice 🔥and the best action to take to protect your right to free speech.