In urging the justices to hear the case, the school district said administrators around the nation need a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on their power to discipline students for what they say away from school.
“The question presented recurs constantly and has become even more urgent as Covid-19 has forced schools to operate online,” a brief for the school district says. “Only this court can resolve this threshold First Amendment question bedeviling the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools.”
Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale University, agrees that the issues in this case are important. In fact, he says, “it is difficult to exaggerate the stakes of this constitutional question.”
Driver himself doesn’t believe that schools have a right to tell students what they can say when they’re not in school.
“In the modern era, a tremendous percentage of minors’ speech occurs off campus but online,” he says. “Judicial decisions that permit schools to regulate off-campus speech that criticizes public schools are antithetical to the First Amendment. Such decisions empower schools to reach into any student’s home and declare critical statements verboten, something that should deeply alarm all Americans.”