The purpose of this communication is to update you on a case our firm first reported to you in July 2020 relating to a student’s use of social media.
As you may recall, in B.L. by & through Levy v. Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist., No. 19-1842, 2020 WL 3526130 (3d Cir. June 30, 2020), a high school student brought an action against a public school district, alleging that suspension based on her social media post, made on a Saturday, violated the First Amendment. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, sided with the student and the district appealed. On appeal, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered two questions:
(1) Whether the student’s “snap” was protected speech.
(2) If it was, did the student validly waive that protection?
In affirming the lower court’s ruling, the appellate court concluded the student’s social media post was protected and that she did not waive her right to post it. The high school student’s use of vulgar language in the social media post made off campus did not justify the punishment of her speech by the district.
On January 8, 2021 the United States Supreme Court granted review of the Third Circuit’s ruling to determine the following issue: Whether Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which holds that public school officials may regulate speech that would materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school, applies to student speech that occurs off campus.
We will follow the United States Supreme Court proceedings closely and provide you with relevant updates as appropriate.