Date: June 26th 2021
On Wednesday June 23rd of 2021, the US supreme court ruled against a public high school in America after the influence of a social media post. A public high school in Pennsylvania seemed to have violated the first amendment to the US constitution by suspending a student from a cheerleading squad after she made a vulgar social media post about not being picked.
Brandi Levy, a former cheerleader at Mahanoy Area high school is a 14 year old freshman that did not make the varsity cheerleading team, then angrily expressed her disappointment through a social media post. She used cursed words and rude gestures to an audience of 250 friends online. Posted off campus at a random convenience store, the Snapchat post showed a picture of Levy and her friend with their middle fingers pointed at the camera with the caption “fuck school, fuck softball, fuck cheer, fuck everything”.
This earned Levy a suspension from the Junior Varsity team for a year, while the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) immediately took the case to court on her behalf. The district attorneys on behalf of the school argued that Levy’s behavior can be accounted as “disruptive”, and that off-campus behavior is something that has been regulated by school administrators. They argued that the remote learning during the pandemic period created a grey area on what is on-and-off campus conduct and therefore Levy’s actions were irresponsible.
However, a long-serving justice and senior member of the bench named Stephen Breyer defended the young girl and regarded the case in court that the suspension violated Levy’s first amendment protections. He said that schools rarely take the place of a student’s parent so when the student is off campus, she has a right to all kinds of speech a student can utter in a 24-hour day.
Breyer continued and wrote, “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”. “The school itself has an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off campus,” he wrote, noting that it was because “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy.”
This led to the eight-to-one ruling from the nine judge bench that favored Brandi Levy, and the court erred on the side of respecting students’ free speech rights outside school facilities.
This is able to show us that although this case was ruled out this way, a school’s authority and environment can be ruined through the power of a social media post. It can show us that, what seemed to be a small upsetting situation, turned out to be a mess that could have been avoided with more communication and less irrational actions. How differently do you think this situation would have been dealt with in your school?
"US Supreme Court Backs Teen Suspended From Cheer Team Over Snapchat Post". The
Guardian, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jun/23/supreme-court-