On June 23, the Supreme Court handed down their decision in the hugely important student speech case Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. The Court ruled in the student’s favor, but declined to set a new standard or test for when schools can restrict off-campus speech.
The Student Press Law Center welcomes the strong support of free speech for students in today’s decision, and the recognition that schools are the “nurseries of democracy.” But we note that today’s decision underscores the hypocrisy of the court in carving out exceptions for the ability of student journalists to exercise those rights.
The Mahanoy opinion says “[S]chools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”’ But day-to-day, schools are relying heavily on another Supreme Court precedent [Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)] to do the opposite: they both disapprove of what student journalists may say, and also deny their right to say it.
We stand by the rights of student journalists to report and publish freely and hope that this decision will help to bolster the efforts of New Voices activists across the country to adopt state-based student press freedom legislation.
- MEDIA ADVISORY: SPLC attorneys are available to provide analysis of Mahanoy v. B.L. - Student Press Law Center attorneys are available to speak with media about the ruling in this major student speech case and its implications.
More About the Case
- SPLC’s 5 minute guide to B.L. v. Mahanoy - Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., No 20-255 B.L. v. Mahanoy is a free expression case the Supreme Court decided in June 2021. The case has major implications for public school students across the country. This page is a primer for reporters, students and teachers who want a quick explanation of the case and how… Continue reading SPLC’s 5 minute guide to B.L. v. Mahanoy
- SPLC urges Supreme Court to limit school authority over off-campus student speech - This month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Mahanoy Area School Dist. v. B.L., a student speech case that could fundamentally alter how future generations understand the idea of free speech in America. Just over 50 years ago the Court handed down a decision in its landmark student speech case, Tinker v. Des… Continue reading SPLC urges Supreme Court to limit school authority over off-campus student speech