SCOTUS Favors Profane Pennsylvania Cheerleader In Free-Speech Case
Jun 23 2021
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. 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.
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with students in a case involving a cheerleader who dropped F-bombs on Snapchat against her school. That meant the then-sophomore from Mahanoy City, Pa., would spend another year on the junior varsity team-but the cheer coach saw a screenshot of the post, and Levy was suspended for the year in retaliation, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And of course, it was accompanied by an upside down smiley face emoji.
With a 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the school district's argument that it did have that authority as needed "to discipline speech that disrupts the campus or harms other students", per the Post-Gazette.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority that "courts must be more skeptical of a school's efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student can not engage in that kind of speech at all".
The justices' opinion was not as sweeping as that of the appeals court below it, which Breyer noted held the school could not dicipline Levy for "engaging in a form of pure speech" because it was off campus. In this case, Thomas notes that though Levy's speech was created in one location, it could be heard in the school. First, schools rarely take the place of parents when students are away from campus.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court concurred with the Third Circuit's decision, though didn't go so far as to say schools never have authority to regulate off-campus speech. Some of our stories include affiliate links.
Justice Clarence Thomas issueed a dissent arguing that the majority did not look closely enough at the precedents about how schools may punish students for speech that happens outside of school but could affect what happens inside of the schoolhouse gates. "If today's decision teaches any lesson, it must be that the regulation of many types of off-premises student speech raises serious First Amendment concerns, and school officials should proceed cautiously before venturing into this territory", Alito wrote. So she posted a photo of herself and a friend flipping the bird to the camera, along with a message that said, "F*** the school, ".
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