Average Joe SCOTUS: Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

Today, we have a pretty straight forward 1st amendment issue between some gustapo scumbags at Mahanoy Area High School (MAHS) and a student Brandi Levy.

Back in 1969, SCOTUS ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District to allow schools to regulate the speech of students if that speech might disrupt the course of business of teaching the other students.

WTF does that have to do with Brandi’s issues today? Well, you see Brandi tried out for the varsity cheerleading team, and ended up only making the reserve squad. Being the entitled little piece of shit every kid her age is, she decided it was unfair, so she went on Snap Chat and wrote, “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.”

To be clear, I know I colorfully make up things people didn’t actually say on Average Joe SCOTUS, but this is literally what she wrote.

Anyway, based on the 1969 ruling above, the school suspended her ass, since over 250 students saw what she wrote, and it was now the talk of the town.

So the question is pretty simple, can shit students say outside of school on their own time and own social media, be used against them in school? Can a school suspend a student for what they write on their own social media?

Counsel for the school attempted to argue that Brandi berated her teachers and shit with this speech, to which Justice Sotomayor quickly responded, “We can quibble about that.” It’s pretty fucking obvious, since she didn’t tag anyone, or call anyone’s attention to her speech, they were shown it by another party, that she didn’t fucking berate anyone. She vented on social media.

Yeah, I’m biased. I think the school couldn’t be more out of line here, and their arguments are bullshit.

Justice Kavanaugh invoked the great one, Michael Jordan in an impassioned speech/question.

Brett M. Kavanaugh

I want to focus on the facts of this case a bit and my reaction to it.

As you say and I think helpful for you, the context here is a team and a coach, not the school more generally.

But, as a judge and maybe as a coach and a parent too, it seems like maybe a bit of overreaction by the coach. So my reaction when I read this, she’s competitive, she cares, she blew off steam like millions of other kids have when they’re disappointed about being cut from the high school team or not being in the starting lineup or not making all league. And just by way of comparison about — and to show how much it means to people, you know, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and gives a speech, and what does he talk about? He talks about getting cut as a sophomore from the varsity team.

And he wasn’t joking.

He was critical 30 years later.

It still bothered him. And I think that’s just emblematic of how much it means to kids to make a high school team.

It is so important to their lives, and coaches sweat the cuts, and it guts coaches to have to cut a kid who’s on the bubble, and — and good coaches understand the importance and they understand the emotions. So maybe what bothers me when I read all this is that it didn’t seem like the punishment was tailored to the offense given what I just said about how important it is and you know how much it means to the kids.

I mean, a year’s suspension from the team just seems excessive to me. But how does that fit into the First Amendment doctrine or does it fit in at all in a case like this?

Lisa S. Blatt

Well, it — it — I don’t think it does because the — it’s analytically distinct whether the coach could act at all versus due process considerations about the extent of the punishment and I think the rule — but, I mean — and also, this is the — the remand point, the district lost on this issue and the Third Circuit did not go on this rationale because there was evidence of the — the team cohesion. But I — I think, you know, whether — I understand that Michael Jordan was upset, but, at some point, presumably, he was respectful to his coaches, and there’s a line that coaches always have to — coaches have to know their team and know what — what works.

They have to act in the best interest of all teammates, team — team participants.

Amicus counsel for the United States in favor of the school, when confronted by Justice Thomas about the one year suspension seeming a pretty heavy-handed punishment for some frustrated speech on Snapchat with a few F-bombs, counsel creatively tried to argue, “Hey man, it’s just a ban from cheerleading, not the whole fucking school. What’s the big deal, guy?”

Opposing counsel, when pressed by Justice Gorsuch conceded some ground when he suggested that if the school had written prior policy telling students this wasn’t allowed, and if they did so, they could be disciplined, they’d have been OK with this. His argument is that the student had no reason to think this would result in disciplinary action, and therefore wouldn’t have known she should refrain from doing it or else. A principle pretty similar to the “Constitutionally vague” principle often used to strike down a law by SCOTUS.

In an 8:1 decision where only justice Thomas dissented, SCOTUS ruled in favor of miss Levy. They made it clear that while a school can regulate speech on campus, students don’t just lose their first amendment rights when they’re off campus. While they conceded if off-campus speech disrupted school activities and such, the school could potentially act, miss Levy didn’t do any of that shit. She just vented on social media.

Hear oral arguments and/or read about the case here.


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