13-year old's Snapchat drinking binge is not protected speech

I don’t know if this kid should be punished. It depends on the kid. They have already faced the consequences of their actions.

But I find this whole situation so fucked up. When I was 13 I knew some kids my age who abused substances. I imagine some of them probably made themselves very ill doing so. I imagine that some of them wouldn’t have done it if not for peer pressure. I don’t think a single one of them did it to produce content (since that wasn’t a thing).

Also, god damn it, America, the First Amendment can’t be the sole governing principle of a whole society. There needs to be some other mechanism for figuring out if things are acceptable or not than categorizing them as speech or not speech.

What if the headline was, “Parent and school of 13-year-old who drank themselves into the hospital felt the need to resort to a courtroom because of disagreement about appropriate response”. This isn’t a first amendment issue. This is just human misery.


Honest question: How is this different from the recent cheerleader case? I get that drinking is not speech, but broadcasting on Snapchat is. Same with the cheerleader, no?

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I believe that she was punished for the drinking itself and not posting it on Snapchat. That’s just how they found out about it.

It’s like when a person posts a video of themself driving drunk for social media street cred or some stupid thing like that. They don’t get arrested for the video itself, and posting the video does not make them immune from prosecution for the act that was recorded.


The Constitutional issue is not policing morality. It’s policing speech. In the Pennsylvania case mentioned, where SCOTUS ruled in favor of the student, the student ranted on TikTok (or Snapchat? I forget, doesn’t matter) about her cheerleading squad and coach and the school, and she used some profanity in doing so. That’s clearly speech, and it was clearly made off campus, and the Court has made it clear more than once that the state (including public schools) can’t do anything about that. Here, the issue is not that the student published a video on social media of herself getting drunk, it’s that she got drunk in the first place. I doubt if any court will find that drinking is a form of speech. If it were, ever statute banning being drunk in public would be overturned. I’d be shocked if this case made it to SCOTUS. I don’t think this one is close. I think the appeals court, if it goes that far, will affirm this decision, and I think if they appeal to SCOTUS, SCOTUS will deny cert.


Most student athletes sign a pledge to not drink or do drugs as a condition for being on the team. It’s a pledge to your teammates as well as the coach. No ones rights were violated here.


See my above response. She was not suspended for posting her binge drinking on Snapchat. She was suspended for binge drinking.

  • Try not to provide your own security camera via your phone and social media.

The difference? Most likely the parent of this child is not rich or influential enough to have their spat with their kids’ school settled at the supreme fucking court.


One thing I can’t help but wonder is: would the penalty have been the same if this had been a boy on the football team rather than a girl on the volleyball team?


It’s possible the severity of the ban (45 games or whatever) was because in broadcasting her binge she gave her binge visibility that required a very public outcome to ensure other kids didn’t think a binge drinking challenge was in order?


So, then, “it’s different.” I don’t agree. No more than spending money on an election, which is an action involving money, is somehow speech. And even if you remove the speech concerns, it’s a morality clause, and morality is notoriously squidgy and tied to religious views, which also aren’t things you can’t legally enforce. It comes down to “these are kids and they do not have any real Constitutional protections,” which absolutely contradicts the earlier ruling by another court that a cheerleader could swear her ass off online about her team. But I’m not a judge and I probably interpret the Constitution WAY differently than most.

All of which is to say: courts aren’t consistent on the topics of which Constitutional protections apply to kids and their actions.

I think the problem is that American free speech law is bullshit double-think from top to bottom. Because protection of speech is taken as absolute you really shouldn’t have copyright laws or laws against death threats. But that’s untenable because society has a reasonable interest in limiting some speech. Since America won’t implement that directly, there is this whole discussion of whether things are speech or not. Sometimes literally saying a thing with your mouth isn’t speech, but sometimes giving someone a burlap sack full of cash is.

It’s magical phrases instead of reasonability, and magic is not consistent.


She’s also 13. If she were 18, I’d agree the morality clauses are bs. She’s not. She’s still a child, and both her parents and the school have more legal authority to police, and punish, her actions that they would if she were older. It is different that actual speech. And personally, I think the spending money is speech argument is bs, as do a lot of people. That case was wrongly decided, and, hopefully, will one day be overturned. Drinking alcohol is not speech, and I’d be shocked if any court ever ruled that it were. As I said, if that’s speech, then statutes banning being intoxicated in public are all unconstitutional because that would be public speech.


That’s possible, but presumably a question of fact that will be brought up in trial. I say that because on closer reading of the article, this hasn’t gone to trial yet. The mother filed a motion asking for an injunction preventing the school from implementing the suspension. The judge denied that motion. This means the judge thinks it’s likely the school will prevail in the trial, but this hasn’t gone to trial yet, I don’t think. Anyway, if what you are saying is true, the student’s lawyer should be able to show examples of other students engaging in similar behavior minus the social media posting, and receiving shorter suspensions. If that’s the case, then maybe she has a case for a First Amendment argument.

This is a mental health and safety issue, as she’s a child who is binge drinking. It’s not a morality issue, except to question how the adults in her life allowed her to get to this point. She needs help, not punishment.


Yeah, the mom has her priorities straight. It’s not the schoolwork missed she’s concerned about but the volleyball competitions.

I totally agree she needs help, but it doesn’t sound like the mother is inclined to give it to her, and the school is limited in what they can do without the mother’s consent. All I’m saying is that, legally, I think the school is allowed to do what they did, and I don’t think this is even a close case, legally.


Then other adults in her life should step in.


There are a few things going on here.

First, there is the no alcohol/substance rule that the parent/guardian (and child) agrees to when participating on the sports team. Sometimes these rules are imposed by the school or district itself, but more often they are imposed by a independent non-profit that manages state level competitions. So if your V-ball team wants to make it to the State Championships, all your team members have to abide by these rules. The school often winds up enforcing these rules, but not setting them. I don’t know the case law about such enforcement, but since the rules have been around for decades, my guess is that its been found legal. (I don’t know if this would apply to 8th grade sports, so it may not be applicable in this situation.)

There is also the compelling interest of the state itself to prevent alcohol or drug abuse. If the student needed to be hospitalized after this incident, that is clearly alcohol abuse (as opposed to a parent giving her a glass of wine under supervision). The state can argue that the nature of the incident, appearing intoxicating before a group of students (I presume from the mother claiming it involved other students on snapchat) could result in peer pressure among other students to abuse alcohol, and therefore the state has a compelling interest to regulate this particular off-campus activity.

Second, there is a potentially illegal act – in many jurisdictions underage drinking is illegal unless the alcohol was provided by a parent/guardian, under their direct supervision. This might present a sword of Damocles to the mother: if she provided the alcohol and admits to this fact, she could be charged with reckless endangerment and lose custody.(1) In precious few situations is illegal activity protected speech. Flag burning is one. Violating public nuisance ordinances at a protest may be another. Rob a bank to protest late stage capitalism, you’ll be arrested for bank robbery, not your views on US economic policy.

Finally, the mother is claiming that the school violated her daughter’s free speech rights. The problem with this argument is that there has to be some connection between the activity and the speech being alleged suppressed. As was noted by others here, and the court, drinking alcohol by itself is not protected speech. Even if she were protesting drinking age laws by taking a drink, it would be a stretch to say this was protected, since the same protest could be made without taking a drink, and certainly without drinking until she blacked out. (2)

As others have said here: I hope the girl gets help with her drinking problem.

(1) This was not implied in the article, and I am not trying to imply the mother provided the alcohol, just trying to point out that it may be legal to provide alcohol to one’s child/charge, but there are limits to that legality.
(2) The article states the mother claimed that other students encouraged her daughter to drink until blacking out. If this is the case, then an investigation into who did the encouraging should be conducted. N.C.'s life was put at risk, and the perpetrators should face the consequences of their reckless endangerment.


Sure, but you can’t mandate that, other than whatever authority the local department of children’s services has, but that’s a separate issue.