Supreme Court grapples with free speech case involving student’s Snapchat outburst

The arguments over Levy’s case seemed to mess with some of the court’s usual ideological lines on language issues, as liberal judges, who often advocate robust freedom of speech, questioned whether school officials’ authority was limited to speeches physically on their campus or held at official events could undermine efforts to curb bullying and harassment.

The court’s main proponent for a comprehensive ruling addressing the right to freedom of expression for students appeared to be Judge Samuel Alito, who had made a ruling as a judge on the appellate court two decades ago an influential decision Warning that some school anti-harassment rules are unconstitutional and interfere with freedom of expression.

A Pennsylvania school district attorney Lisa Blatt told judges that officials must be empowered to monitor online speeches addressed to the school, just like speeches on campus.

“The location of the speaker is irrelevant,” emphasized Blatt. “When it comes to the Internet, things like time and geography are meaningless. … The fact that she said so in the cocoa shack shouldn’t matter to the analysis. “

But Alito said deciding what statements to make about a school in the stream of daily social media posts about friends, sports, politics, and social issues is not an easy task.

“What worries me is what you just suggested, a very nebulous line,” said the conservative judiciary appointed by President George W. Bush. “I’m pretty concerned about the impact on freedom of expression … I have no idea what it means to target school.”

Judge Stephen Breyer said the case was incapable of making sweeping generalizations about freedom of expression and suggested it would be unwise to use it as a vehicle.

“I cannot write a treatise on the first amendment in this case,” said President Bill Clinton’s Liberal representative. “Everyone seems to want a rule.”

Breyer poked fun at the idea that schools should try to punish bad language uttered outside of school.

“She used swear words, unattractive swear words, off campus,” explained Breyer. “Mmmmh, my goodness, if I swear by campus [is forbidden] Every school in the country will do nothing but punish that.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh agreed with Breyer’s view that the case was bad in an attempt to establish a clear rule for student speech.

“This is not the opportunity for the court Try to decide how to deal with the narrow cases in the school speech, “said the representative of President Donald Trump and asked at one point whether the writing of a detailed statement on the case was” worth the candle “.

Still, Kavanaugh was arguably the most tortured member of the court when it came to the facts of Levy’s case and her punishment. A passionate sports fan who has coached a girls’ middle school basketball team for years, the judiciary seemed outraged by the decision to kick Levy out of cheerleading for a year for having a say on the nature of the team plan’s decision indeed seem earth-shaking to a high school kid.

“It’s so important to their life,” said Kavanaugh. “Trainers sweat the cuts, and it encourages trainers to have to cut children who are in their bladder. … A one-year suspension just seems excessive to me. “

Kavanaugh noted that when the great basketball player Michael Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was still upset when he described how he had been expelled from a high school team three decades earlier. While the judiciary couldn’t help but share his feelings and say again later in session that “a year seems like a long time”, he finally seemed to admit that the proportionality of the punishment really wasn’t an issue in court.

“Of course I find it regrettable that this case has gotten so twisted,” added Kavanaugh. “I fully understand the young woman’s reaction to being upset about the decision.”

Alito seemed concerned that his colleagues were unwilling to view the case as an opportunity to assess the students’ freedom of speech in general. He contemptuously suggested that if the court wanted to settle the case “without ruling on these difficult issues,” it should simply dismiss the case without making a decision. This would not set a national precedent, but would leave a court of appeals ruling in place that the Mahanoy area school district has no authority to oversee Levy’s speech outside of the school or its programs.

Alito said that despite Levy’s “colorful language”, her Snapchat post was only: “I hate school. I have no respect for school.”

Levy’s attorney, David Cole of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned judges who, half a century ago, enacted rules established by the court that on campus speech should not be limited to the internet and the multitude of social media platforms Now should be used with enthusiasm for young people.

“This is where children speak,” said Cole. Bringing online language under school control means “kids don’t have free speech, period,” he added. “They will essentially take the schoolhouse with them wherever they go.”

Leaf attempted to allay the Conservative judges’ concerns by stating that out-of-school comments by students on political or religious issues should not be subject to regulation by school boards, but that the concession did not seem very satisfactory to any of the judges.

Several judges said these types of statements could cause as much, if not more, disruption on campus than grievance against teachers or other students. Justice Clarence Thomas challenged this spin-off by invoking various polarizing issues of the day, including Black Lives Matter, Antifa and even the Proud Boys – a right-wing group that was involved in the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

“People can take sides that are just as disruptive in school as comments on Ms. Johnson,” said Thomas, who was led by President George H.W. was appointed. Bush and is the longest serving judiciary on the current court.

One surprising aspect of Tuesday’s arguments was the lack of discussion of how the ongoing pandemic has further blurred the lines of what is considered behavior on campus or off campus. Many students have not been on campus for more than a year, while others spend part of the week in online courses and part in a traditional classroom.

A decision on this case is expected when the judges leave town for their summer break in late June or early July.

Bianca Quilantan contributed to this report.

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