Fourteen-year-old Brandi Levy’s profanity-laced posting on Snapchat has ended up before the Supreme Court in the most significant case on student speech in more than 50 years.
Levy and a friend were at a convenience store in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, when she took to social media to express her frustration at being kept on her high school’s junior varsity cheerleading squad for another year. “F— school f— softball f— cheer f— everything,” Levy wrote. After the post was brought to the attention of the team’s coaches, Levy was suspended from the cheerleading team for a year. Levy, now 18, expressed, “I was a 14-year-old kid. I was upset, I was angry. Everyone, every 14-year-old kid speaks like that at one point.”
Her parents knew nothing about the post until she was suspended and did not punish her for what she did. Instead, her parents filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the suspension violated their daughter’s constitutional speech rights. Lower courts agreed and restored her to the cheerleading team. The case’s potential importance grew when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia also sided with Levy.
Still, the lawyer representing Levy, David Cole, urged the Supreme Court to affirm the clean line the appeals court drew, making clear educators have no authority over children when they are not under a school’s supervision. On the other hand, the school district and the Biden administration both argued that the justices should reject the appellate ruling because it draws an artificial line. However, there was a sense among the justices that Levy’s case, a teenager venting her unhappiness about an extracurricular program, may not be the best one to use to write a sweeping rule about student speech in the digital age. A decision is expected to be made by late June.
ARTICLE: GABRIELLA ANTOS
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BOSTON GLOBE