“The outcome of a lawsuit involving off-campus speech should not affect students at colleges and universities,” said Dr. Lori Henson a professor in the communication department at ISU.
The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the case B.L. vs Mahanoy. The case involves a high school student who was punished for social media posts criticizing the school and using profanity.
“This case only applies to K-12 students at public schools. Adults have full First Amendment protection for speech and expression; and private schools can restrict student behavior however they want. ISU students would not be impacted by the Court’s eventual decision,” said Henson.
The student who posted the criticisms about the school on Snapchat was high school sophomore Brandi Levy. The post was published after Levy did not make the varsity cheerleading squad, but made the junior-varsity squad instead.
After the school was made aware of the profanity-filled post, Levy was suspended from the cheerleading team for a year. Levy’s father then decided to file a lawsuit against the school claiming that they violated his daughter’s First Amendment rights.
“I think it’s sensible to separate threatening and harassing speech online and off-campus from political and profane speech. I hope the Court will see the value in protecting student speech off-campus, even as social media blurs the boundaries of what is ‘on-campus’ and ‘off-campus’ speech,” said Henson.
The outcome of the case has caused concern about how the decision could affect student speech.
“We have to protect our kids’ rights to participate in society, and also their right to an education that isn’t disrupted by bullying, threats, and harassment,” said Henson.