A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a school district violated a cheerleader’s First Amendment rights after she posted a Snapchat using profanity about the squad.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania sued the Mahanoy Area School District on behalf of the student. She is not named because she is a minor.
The sophomore student posted “fuck cheer” on her Snapchat. This caused the school to dismiss her from the junior varsity squad. The school claimed she was posting “negative information” about the cheer squad.
According to court documents, the student was required to agree with a set of rules. Those rules claimed “there will be no toleration of any negative information regarding cheerleading, cheerleaders, or coaches placed on the internet.”
The student made the post in May 2017 after she did not make the varsity squad after tryouts. The full post showed her and a friend holding up their middle fingers with the words “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.”
The U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that the post was protected speech under the First Amendment.
The school had to pay $1 in nominal damages and remove any record of disciplinary action against the student.
The school administrators respected and planned to abide by the outcome of the court case. However, they stated that the entire case was a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Now, the student is a junior and on the varsity cheerleading squad at the school.
“They had argued that the fact that she was in cheerleading meant that they had greater power to punish her,” Molly Tack-Hooper, the student’s attorney, said. “Hopefully, this ruling makes it clear that, no, schools don’t get to punish kids for swearing on their own time just because they happen to be athletes.”
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