According to the state Supreme Court, the Central Pennsylvania school board overreacted when it expelled a student for off-campus Snapchat memes.
The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a central Pennsylvania school board violated a student’s rights when it expelled him over Snapchat memes that the board deemed threatening but that the teen insisted were private and funny.
Justice Debra Todd’s majority opinion upholds a Commonwealth Court ruling on the Manheim Township School District dispute.
Todd also included a warning from US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito about a school district’s ability to respond to off-campus social media speech.
“The regulation of many types of off-premises student speech raises serious First Amendment concerns,” Alito warned in a ruling his court issued against Mahanoy Area School District in another free-speech case involving off-campus comments by a high school cheerleader.
Two memes sent by a high school student to a friend in April 2018 were at issue in the Manheim Township case.
They made fun of a third student who wore a Cannibal Corpse T-shirt all the time.
Cannibal Corpse is a hard metal rock band whose songs contain violent themes, such as children being eaten.
The first meme featured a picture of a student being mocked for singing into a microphone.
“I’m shooting up the school this week,” it said.
“I’m done!” I exclaim, “I can’t take it any longer!”
A video of the same student playing the guitar was the subject of the second meme.
“Many will perish in this storm,” the caption read.
The teen only sent the memes to one friend, who then shared them on his Snapchat story, where his friends could see them.
The memes were only up for five minutes before their creator asked a friend to take them down.
Todd estimated that 20 to 40 other students saw the memes before they were taken down.
One of them informed his parent, a school district employee, about the memes.
According to Todd, school officials called the cops, who investigated and found no cause for alarm.
“However, the superintendent sent an e-mail to all parents and teachers, informing them that a threat had been posted on social media…
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