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Monday, July 11, 2022

The limits of swearing cheerleaders and an obviouly hollow victory

Free speech folks were watching this Tenth Circuit case, arising from the expulsion of a high school student for a private, out-of-school Snapchat post saying "Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews" with a photo of them wearing WW-II-era foreign military hats. In other words, it raised the open question from Mahanoy--out-of-school online speech not about school but raising concerns for in-school bullying, harassment, threats, and discrimination. The court reversed the grant of a 12(b)(6), holding that Mahanoy applies, the school did not have an interest in regulating this speech (despite its content), and there was no showing of substantial disruption. Good all around-and perhaps a hint that lower courts will follow Mahanoy to a sharper in-school/out-of-school line.

But the court remanded for consideration of qualified immunity, which will almost certainly be granted. The events underlying this case occurred in 2019, two years prior to Mahanoy and during a period in which courts allowed schools greater power to reach out-of-school speech that found its way into school and that could be perceived as threatening or discriminatory. Certainly there is no SCOTUS or Tenth Circuit precedent establishing that similar speech cannot be punished. So this is a small victory for the plaintiff that will not last long.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 11, 2022 at 02:06 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink

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