Lekha G –
The Supreme Court has extended free speech protection to a high school student who was suspended for a social media post criticizing her school.
The case began when Brandi Levy, a Mahanoy High School sophomore, was passed over for the varsity cheerleading team. Subsequently, she took a photo along with a friend with their middle fingers raised and posted it on Snapchat with a caption repeating the F- word for “School…softball…cheer…everything.”
The cheerleading coaches for the school said that she had violated the team rules by showing disrespect and using foul language and hence suspended her for a year from the junior varsity squad.
Levy along with her parents appealed to the Federal Court alleging violation of her 1st Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech when the decision appealed to school officials and the school board failed.
In 1969, the Supreme Court during the Vietnam War ruled that students can exercise their free speech right when they went to school, provided it does not cause “Substantial disruptions” there.
A Federal Judge ruled for Levy and the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the same and ruled the school’s authority did not extend to off-campus speech.
David Cole, legal director of the ACLU representing Levy said, “Protecting young people’s free speech rights when they are outside of school is vital, and this is a huge victory for the free speech rights of millions of students who attend our nation’s public schools.”
However, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the school district’s appeal to clarify the line between the rights of students and the authority of school officials.