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ARLINGTON, VA—Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in one of the biggest student speech cases in the last half century. In Mahanoy School District v. B.L., the justices ruled 8-1 that public schools can’t monitor and punish students for most speech that takes place off school grounds and outside of school functions.
“Public schools should be champions of free speech,” said Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Casey Mattox. “It’s a victory not just for students but for a society that benefits when the next generation learns to exercise their First Amendment freedoms.”
A case that started with a high school cheerleader and a profanity-laced Snapchat now has implications for tens of millions of students across the country. When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the Court to decide whether a public school may regulate off-campus speech, AFPF and The Rutherford Institute argued in a friend-of-the-court brief:
With the advent of social media, fundamental rights are imperiled when schools seek to regulate private behavior. While this case turns on the use of Snapchat, expanding school authority over off-campus speech naturally implicates other technologies, allowing schools to observe students’ homelife, including spaces in which parents or other family members have a right to privacy and autonomy. It is not enough to argue that schools have only good intentions; pervasive surveillance imperils lawful behavior by students and the individual rights of conscientious parents who would self-censor to avoid rebuke for their children. And, as recent experience with remote schooling shows, allowing schools to see into children’s homes can result in penalizing children before the facts have been established or the parents notified—good intentions notwithstanding.
During this term, AFPF has been one of the most active organizations filing friend of the court briefs in support of civil liberties and constitutional government, supporting the rights of criminal defendants, defending the First Amendment, and many others. People’s ability to freely think, speak, and join with others contributes to a diverse public square and helps people drive progress on the challenges we face. Learn more about our commitment to civil liberties including free speech.
For further information or questions, reach Lorenz Isidro at LIsidro@afphq.org or 703-887-7724.
Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) works in communities and alongside partners to provide educational programs and resources on the toughest issues facing our country, including free markets, civil liberties, immigration reform, and constitutionally limited government.