The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania teenager who sued after a profanity-laced social media post got her banished from her high school's cheerleading squad in a closely watched free speech case, but it declined to outright bar public schools from regulating off-campus speech.
The justices ruled 8-1 that the punishment that Mahanoy Area School District officials gave the plaintiff, Brandi Levy, for her social media post - made on Snapchat at a local convenience store in Mahanoy City on a weekend - violated her free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.
The case involved the free speech rights of America's roughly 50 million public school students in the internet and social media era. Many schools and educators have argued that their ability to curb bullying, threats, cheating and harassment - all frequently occurring online - should not be limited to school grounds.
Wednesday's ruling brought the court's earlier decision on student expression into the internet age. In 1969, the court said students and teachers do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Student expression cannot be regulated, that ruling said, unless it would substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.