In Tinker’s case, SCOTUS should speak out for free speech, not school control – Orange County Register
In 1969, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, that students “do not give up their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression upon entering school.” Schools can only prohibit, censor or punish speeches by pupils which “would interfere materially and substantially with the requirements of an appropriate discipline in the functioning of the school”.
But what about the speeches that occur outside the school gate and outside of school hours? The Court is about to take up this issue in Mahanoy Area School District v. BL
In 2017, Brandi Levy, a 14-year-old high school student, found herself suspended from her school’s cheerleader team for a year for a pop-up Snapchat message posted off campus and over the weekend.
“F *** school f *** softball f *** cheer f *** everything,” Levy wrote, pointing out her anger at not making the varsity team happy with a photo of herself and of a friend raising the middle finger.
Levy continued the suspension and won. Four years later, she was studying accounting at university while awaiting a decision from the United States Supreme Court on her old school’s appeal.
The school district is claiming the power to regulate and punish “substantially disruptive” student speech, even when the student speaks off campus and outside of school hours.
Brandi Levy says the district’s power over student speech ends at the campus property line and at the end of the school day.
Even leaving aside the question of whether Levy’s rant was “substantially disruptive” (as a student I heard much worse on campus and during school hours without any “disruption”), he is important to draw a clear line here: she’s right, they’re wrong, and it’s not a tight call.
Most state laws mandate attendance at government-run schools for most minors (with a few exceptions for private or home education).
The government gets substantial control over our children for several hours a day, five days a week, not including homework and extracurricular activities.
This substantial check must end at the school gate and the final bell.
Aside from the real threats of violence, which can lead to action whether the perpetrator is a student or not, what our children say, how they say it and to whom they say it when they are not at home. school is simply not the school’s business.
In the age of social media, it’s more important than ever for the Supreme Court to protect the free speech rights of students off campus and on campus.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is Director and Senior News Analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in North Central Florida.