Federal court rules Mahanoy Area School District violated student’s first amendment rights


MAHANOY CITY, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) According to the PA ACLU, The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday that “public schools cannot censor students’ off-campus speech based on a fear of disruption of school activities.”

This is related to a case in which the court found the Mahanoy Area School District was in violation of the first amendment when it removed a student from its cheerleading team for a Snapchat picture message sent outside of school hours on a weekend.

Snapchat is a social media app where users can send pictures and videos that are available for a time set by the user ranging from one second to 24 hours, after which they are deleted automatically. The message was sent to the student’s friends and contained language that the school said was negative toward the school and cheerleading.

The school said the post was in violation of the school’s “Cheerleading Rules” which included not posting anything negative about the program online.

In the news release, the PA ACLU references two other cases where the court previously held that students can’t be punished for speech outside of school unless it “substantially, materially disrupts school activities.”

The PA ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student in 2017 and also filed a restraining order and preliminary injunction which asked that the student be reinstated on the cheerleading team due to the likelihood that the court would rule in her favor. Both were granted within a little over a week and the student was allowed back on the team while the lawsuit continued.

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