In a view of Student speech rights on Wednesday, the supreme court ruled that a former Pennsylvania cheerleader Brandi Levy’s online F-Bombs, issued in 2017 on Snapchat, who profane off-campus rant cost her a sport on the squad is protected under the First Amendment that is not to be easily cast aside.
She posted a photo of herself with her friend flipping the bird to the camera, along with a message that said, “F*** the school. … F*** cheer, F*** everything.”
This message was supposed to vanish in 24 hours, but her coaches were alerted to it, and they suspended Levy from cheerleading for a year.
After suspension, she sued from her high school’s cheerleading squad in a closely watched free speech case, but it declined to outright bar public schools from regulating off-campus speech.
“I was really upset and frustrated at everything,” Pennsylvania Brandi Levy said in an interview with NPR in April.
However, given her statement on Wednesday, she said: “Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school. I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”
During this era of the internet and social media, the case involved the free speech rights of America’s roughly 50 million students of public school. Many schools and educators have argued that their ability to curb threats, bullying, cheating, & harassment — all frequently occurring online — should not be limited to school grounds.
Supreme Court Views About Cheerleader Free Speech
However, the court ruled 8-1 that the school administrators do have rights & power to punish student speech if it veritably interrupts classroom study. Regrettably, the school district’s punishment was too severe, although it declined to adopt a broader rule. But the justices concluded that a few swearwords posted online off school grounds did not rise to the definition of disruptive.
“It might be tempting to dismiss Brandi Levy’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his 11-page majority opinion, using the initials of the minor in question.
“The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances,” Breyer wrote in the ruling.
“But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous to preserve the necessary,” he added.
He also added, “But Levy’s speech was not disruptive or threatening.”
Breyer said that the schools have less power over off-campus speech than on-campus speech.
“When it comes to political or religious speech that occurs outside school or a school program or activity, the school will have a heavy burden to justify intervention,” Breyer wrote in the ruling.
This decision left many questions unanswered. But Frank D. LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, called it “surprisingly good.”
However, this ruling left the door open to future cases to better define the scope of the internet & social media power.