Support Just the News

Help Fund Honest Journalism

Donate

Supreme Court hears free-speech case with student Snapchat post a center of debate

“I shouldn't have to be afraid to express myself," says former high schooler Brandi Levy whose Snapchat post is at center of case.

Updated: April 26, 2021 - 8:28am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday related to a Pennsylvania teenager whose profanity-laced Snapchat post got her kicked off her high school's cheerleading squad – a test case on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. 

The teen, Brandi Levy, who made the post away from school and on the weekend, says, “I shouldn't have to be afraid to express myself."

The case before the nine justices is the Mahanoy Area School District's appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of Levy that found that the First Amendment bars public school officials from regulating off-campus speech, according to Reuters.

Levy made the Snapchat My Story post in May 2017, two days after Mahanoy Area High School held cheerleader tryouts and Levy, a ninth-grader who had been a junior varsity cheerleader, failed to make the varsity squad.

Such posts, which stay live for only 24, also include Levy and a friend holding up their middle fingers. Levy also reportedly made another post questioning why another girl made the varsity squad.

Coaches ousted Levy from the squad for a year, saying she had broken rules. Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Levy and her parents sued the district seeking reinstatement to the squad and a judgment that her First Amendment rights had been violated, the wire service also reports.

A judge ordered Levy to be reinstated, saying her actions had not been disruptive enough to result in such punishment. 

After the school district appealed, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia upheld the lower court decision.

A decision in favor of Levy, could make it harder for teachers and administrators to curb bullying, racism, cheating and invasions of privacy, all frequently occurring online, outside school property or during off hours, according to the district and its supporters.

The ACLU said giving educators the power to police off-campus speech would extend censorship everywhere young people go and prompt schools to conduct "dragnet online surveillance" of students, Reuters also reports.

The Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June.

Just the News Spotlight