On June 23, in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether schools can regulate off-campus social media speech that materially and substantially disrupts the school environment without violating the First Amendment. In an 8-1 opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court upheld B.L.’s First Amendment rights, but more broadly held that under different circumstances, schools may constitutionally regulate off-campus cyber speech.
B.L. was a student at Mahanoy Area High School in Pennsylvania. At the end of her freshman year, she tried out for her school’s varsity cheerleading team, but was instead offered a spot on the junior varsity team. Frustrated, B.L. posted a photo on her Snapchat story of her and a friend with their middle fingers raised and the caption “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” The photo was posted off campus and on a weekend, but the image could be viewed by over 250 people, some of whom were also students at Mahanoy Area High School. Students brought the photo to the attention of B.L.’s cheerleading coaches, and B.L. was suspended from the junior varsity team for one year.