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Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: January 21, 2021

What's at Stake

On September 25, 2017, the 澳门六合开奖记录-PA filed suit on behalf of B.L., a high school sophomore who has been cheerleading since she was in fifth grade and was expelled from the team as punishment for out-of-school speech.

The case involves a First Amendment challenge to the Mahanoy Area High School鈥檚 鈥淐heerleading Rules,鈥 which prohibit cheerleaders from posting any 鈥渘egative information鈥 ACLUcheerleading online. B.L. was kicked off the junior varsity cheerleading squad for posting a Snap to Snapchat on the weekend that school officials believed was 鈥渘egative,鈥 鈥渄isrespectful,鈥 and 鈥渄emeaning.鈥 Snapchat is a popular social media smartphone app that allows users to post images that are accessible on the platform only for short periods of time鈥攔anging from one second to 24 hours鈥攁nd are self-deleting. The post for which B.L. was punished was a photo of her and a friend at a convenience store holding up their middle fingers with the text 鈥渇uck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything鈥 superimposed on the photo. B.L. posted the Snap on a Saturday, and made it available only to her Snapchat friends.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit previously held, in 澳门六合开奖记录-PA cases, that schools cannot punish students for out-of-school speech that does not pose a risk of substantially, materially disrupting school activities. B.L.鈥檚 lawsuit challenges the Cheerleading Rules on their face and as applied to B.L. to punish her for the content of her out-of-school speech.

Along with the complaint, the 澳门六合开奖记录-PA also filed a motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction asking the court to order the District to immediately and temporarily restore B.L. to the team while the litigation proceeds.

On September 26, 2017, the Court issued a temporary restraining order restoring B.L. to the cheerleading squad.

On October 5, 2017, the Court granted plaintiff鈥檚 motion for preliminary injunction, finding that she was likely to succeed in her lawsuit, and issued an order reinstating B.L. to the cheerleading squad while the litigation proceeds.

On March 21, 2019, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the school did not have the authority to discipline her for her off-campus speech and that the school was in violation of the First Amendment.

In a landmark decision, on June 30, 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that public schools cannot censor students鈥 off-campus speech based on a fear of disruption of school activities.

On January 2021, the United States Supreme Court announced that it had granted certiorari to hear this case. Oral argument will likely be scheduled for March or April 2021.

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To read the case’s accompanying press releases and legal documents, visit the original case page found through the ACLUof Pennsylvania’s website.

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