Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader who cursed on social media

Supreme Court rules school wrong to punish cheerleader for profane Snapchat rant in 8-1 free speech decision

In a landmark ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that a Pennsylvania school district violated a student's free speech after she used explicit language regarding the school's cheerleading squad on Snapchat. The majority announced a categorical rule barring discipline for off-campus speech that seemed to limit the ability of public schools to address many kinds of disturbing communications by students on social media, including racist threats and cyberbullying.

Brandi Levy, now an 18-year-old college freshman, was a ninth grader at Mahanoy Area High School who had just failed to make the varsity cheer squad when she made a decision to air her frustrations on social media.

"F*** school, f*** softball, f*** cheer, f*** everything", read the message, which was sent to roughly 250 friends, including cheerleading friends at the school. "L.'s [Brandi Levy's] interest in free expression in this case", Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the ruling. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, which also found that the school, Mahoney Area High School, violated Brandi Levy's First Amendment rights. That protection must include the protection of unpopular ideas, for popular ideas have less need for protection. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

Maggie Hroncich is an intern at The Federalist and a student at Hillsdale College.

The school district and those who sided with it said that schools should be able to punish off-campus speech like Levy's as part of their efforts to regulate cyber-bullying.

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Witold "Vic" Walczak, the legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, previously told Insider that school districts effectively had the power to punish the nation's 50 million public-school students for any speech they deemed controversial, even if the students expressed the views off school grounds and outside of school hours.

Levy sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory from a divided three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Philadelphia.

Levy is now 18 and a freshman at Bloomsburg University. Ambro agreed with the other two judges who decided Levy's case that the suspension was unwarranted, but only because what she did was not disruptive either to the cheerleading team or school. "But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary", he wrote, using Levy's initials because that was how she was identified in the original lawsuit.

Days before the case was heard in the Supreme Court Tinker and Levy sat down with the ACLU and discussed free speech for students in America.

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