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UWEC professor weighs in on U.S. Supreme Court freedom of speech case

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire criminal justice professor Justin Patchin wrote the brief on...
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire criminal justice professor Justin Patchin wrote the brief on the case, Mahanoy Area School District vs. B.L.(WEAU)
Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 3:58 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire criminal justice professor wrote a brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case deciding whether schools can regulate off-campus speech.

Professor Justin Patchin wrote the brief on the case, Mahanoy Area School District vs. B.L. He also wrote a blog post explaining his brief.

In the case, a student was suspended for a year from the JV Cheerleading team after making an offensive Snapchat post. The student and her parents sued the school district claiming it violated her first amendments right to free speech.

Patchin, who is also the Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, said he originally wasn’t interested in the case. He took an interest following a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision ruling school districts have no right to regulate what someone says off campus.

He fears the appeals court ruling could lead to more cyberbullying if it stands.

“If a student is harassing another student online, the school needs to have the authority to do something about that and the Third Circuit opinion basically makes it seem like they can’t,” Patchin said.

Justices heard oral arguments on the case Wednesday.

Patchin said previous court precedent allows schools to regulate speech only when it impacts the learning environment.

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