Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. that public schools retain the ability to regulate off-campus student speech in special circumstances. In response, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) released the following statement:

“With today’s decision, the Court made clear that it is not a question of how or where speech is made—whether on school grounds or online—but its impact or effect.

“So while the school district lost on the facts of this particular case, it represents a win for schools, as well as students, who can still be protected from off-campus student speech that bullies, harasses, threatens, disrupts, or meets other circumstances outlined by the Court.

“As NSBA explained in its amicus brief in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., the physical location of a student’s speech is irrelevant in today’s social media-fueled world. We urged the Court not to paint with such a broad brush that it removed schools’ ability to keep kids safe.

“In its decision, the Court referenced amici briefs, like the one offered by NSBA, that list several types of off-campus behavior that may call for school regulation. These include serious or severe bullying or harassment targeting particular individuals; threats aimed at teachers or other students; the failure to follow rules concerning lessons, the writing of papers, the use of computers, or participation in other online school activities; and breaches of school security devices, including material maintained within school computers.”

NSBA has prepared additional resources related to the Mahanoy case at https://nsba.org/Advocacy/Legal-Advocacy/mahanoy-area-school-district-case-resources.

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Full of challenge and change, 2020 was like no other year. NSBA's State of the Association provides a snapshot of the association's advocacy and member services work as well as our ongoing transformation.