The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
The case united many liberal and conservative groups in support of a cheerleader punished by her school with a one-year suspension from the team for swearing on her Snapchat account.
“Obviously, the stakes are huge — especially in the era of social media, when conversations in school are inextricably intertwined with what happens online outside of school hours,” Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman wrote about Brandi Levy’s case.
“Where you come down on this case says a lot about your free-speech instincts,” Feldman said at Bloomberg Opinion.
The ACLU, which represents Levy, is arguing for near-absolute protection for off-campus speech, because it deeply distrusts the government as the regulator of our communications. Lots of conservative organizations find themselves aligned with the ACLU on this one.
In contrast, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, which filed a friend of the court brief, emphasizes that schools have legal duty to protect students against harassment based on race, sex, sexual orientation and disability. It’s clearly worried that if off-campus speech is out of bounds to school administrators, forbidding illegal discrimination will be a hopeless task. Anti-bullying organizations are taking the side of the school district and the Biden administration.
Conservative groups including the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed amicus briefs in support of the student, represented by the ACLU.
“Today, the tables are turned to a striking degree,” the law professor said. “Many conservatives now favor near absolute free-speech protection, while liberals want the government to use its power to protect equality.”
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