July 8, 2021

How Supreme Court decision frees schools from monitoring off-campus speech

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With the Supreme Court’s ruling on a cheerleader’s free speech complaint, schools got some much-needed clarity on when they can discipline students for their actions off campus. The 8-1 decision states that schools cannot punish a student for their speech off campus unless it “materially disrupts classwork or involved substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.”

“What this means is that schools are not in charge of students 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “There may be things kids say that school administrators don’t like, but the school does not have to monitor students’ every word, every tweet, every Facebook post.”

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that parents, not the school, are responsible for their children’s speech off campus, and schools should do everything possible to protect students’ First Amendment rights.

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