Studente vs. ente scolastico: il diritto di critica nel campus arriva alla Suprema Corte USA

La Suprema corte statunitense si occupa di un singolare caso di diritto di parola di uno studente verso la propria scuola (Supreme Court MAHANOY AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. B. L., n. 20-255, 23.06.2021: vedila qui).

Era capitato che la studentessa BL fosse stata escluso dal ruolo ambito nella cheerleaders squad e che le fosse stato offerto un altro ruolo , non gradito e non accettato.

Sucessivamente, arrabbviata, BL aveva caricato su Snapchat dei post critici verso la scuola: <<that weekend, B. L. and a friend visited the Cocoa Hut, a local convenience store. There, B. L. used her smartphone to post two photos on Snapchat, a social media applicationthat allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after a set period of time. B. L. posted the images to herSnapchat “story,” a feature of the application that allowsany person in the user’s “friend” group (B. L. had about 250 “friends”) to view the images for a 24 hour period. The first image B. L. posted showed B. L. and a friend with middle fingers raised; it bore the caption: “Fuck schoolfuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” App. 20. The second image was blank but for a caption, which read: “Lovehow me and [another student] get told we need a year of jv before we make varsity but tha[t] doesn’t matter to anyone else?” The caption also contained an upside-down smiley-face emoji. Id., at 21. B. L.’s Snapchat “friends” included other Mahanoy AreaHigh School students, some of whom also belonged to the cheerleading squad. At least one of them, using a separatecellphone, took pictures of B. L.’s posts and shared them with other members of the cheerleading squad. One of the students who received these photos showed them to her mother (who was a cheerleading squad coach), and the images spread. That week, several cheerleaders and other students approached the cheerleading coaches “visibly upset” about B. L.’s posts. Id., at 83–84. Questions about the posts persisted during an Algebra class taught by one of thetwo coaches. Id., at 83>>

Segue sanzione da parte della scuola , consistente nella sospensione della sua partecipazione a tutte le attività di quel tipo.

La ragazza e la famiglia impugnano giudizialmente.

la SC dice che il diritto di parola esiste anche per lo studente e lo fa prevalere.

Tre sono le peculiarità del diritto di intervneto della scuola: <<First, a school will rarely stand in loco parentis when a student speaks off campus. Second, from the student speaker’s perspective, regulations of off-campus speech, when coupled with regulations of on-campus speech, include all the speech a student utters during the full 24-hour day.That means courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all. Third, the school itself has an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off campus, because America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy>>, p. 6-8

Applicando ciò al caso de quo, il diritto di parola e di critica della studentessa prevale: la sospensione dalla squadra è ingiustificata.

La volgarità delle espressioni di critica non è di ostacolo: << Putting aside the vulgar language, the listener would hear criticism, of the team, the team’s coaches, and the school—in a word or two, criticism of the rules of a community of which B. L. forms a part. This criticism did not involve features that would place it outside the First Amendment’s ordinary protection. B. L.’s posts, while crude, did not amount to fighting words. See Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568 (1942). And while B. L. used vulgarity, her speech was not obscene as thisCourt has understood that term. See Cohen v. California, 403 U. S. 15, 19–20 (1971). To the contrary, B. L. uttered the kind of pure speech to which, were she an adult, the First Amendment would provide strong protection. See id., at 24; cf. Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U. S. 443, 461 (2011) (First Amendment protects “even hurtful speech on public issuesto ensure that we do not stifle public debate”)…. Consider too when, where, and how B. L. spoke. Her posts appeared outside of school hours from a location outside the school. She did not identify the school in her postsor target any member of the school community with vulgaror abusive language. B. L. also transmitted her speechthrough a personal cellphone, to an audience consisting ofher private circle of Snapchat friends. These features of her speech, while risking transmission to the school itself, nonetheless (for reasons we have just explained, supra, at 7–8)diminish the school’s interest in punishing B. L.’s utterance>>, p. 8-9

E sul l’interesse della scuola a proibire l’uso di linguaggio volgare ? Ha tutela assai ridotta in condotte tenute al di fuori del campus: <<The school’s interest in teaching good manners and consequently in punishing the use of vulgar language aimed at part of the school community is weakened considerably by the fact that B. L. spoke outside the school on her own time. B. L. spoke under circumstances where the school did not stand in loco parentis. And the vulgarity in B. L.’s posts encompassed a message of criticism. In addition, the school has presented no evidence of any general effort to prevent students from using vulgarity outside the classroom. Pp. 9–10. (4)The school’s interest in preventing disruption is not supportedby the record, which shows that discussion of the matter took, at most,5 to 10 minutes of an Algebra class “for just a couple of days” and thatsome members of the cheerleading team were “upset” about the content of B. L.’s Snapchats. App. 82–83. This alone does not satisfy Tinker’s demanding standards. Pp. 10–11.(5)Likewise, there is little to suggest a substantial interferencein, or disruption of, the school’s efforts to maintain cohesion on theschool cheerleading squad. P. 11.>> (dal Syllabus)

Opinione dissenziente del giudice Thomas, che vede non rispettata -senza giustificazione- la regola giurisprudenziale, per cui <<A school can regulate speech when it occurs off campus, so long as ithas a proximate tendency to harm the school, its faculty or students, or its programs>>, p. 4.. Egli precis che è vero che certe corti hanno fatto affermazioni <<that, if read in isolation, could suggest that schools had no authority at all to regulate off-campus speech. E.g., Dritt v. Snodgrass, 66 Mo. 286, 297 (1877) (Norton, J., joined by a majority of the court, concurring) (“neither the teacher nor directors have the authority to follow [a student home], and govern his conduct while under the parental eye” because that would “supersede entirely parental authority”). But, these courts made it clear that the rule against regulating off-campus speechapplied only when that speech was “nowise connected with the management or successful operation of the school.” King v. Jefferson City School Bd., 71 Mo. 628, 630 (1880)(distinguishing Dritt); accord, Lander, 32 Vt., at 120–121 (similar)>>, ivi

Questione interessante. Nonostante l’apparentente banalità dei fatti (esclusione dai cheerleaders teams; bisognerebbe però calarsi nella realtà locale per capire l’importanza di ciò nella società statunitense) , il diritto di critica viene tutelato anche in relazione ad essi.