A former cheerleader at high school argued that her public school could not punish her for posting a vulgar caption on Snapchat while she was away from school. The Supreme Court ruled in favor.
A Pennsylvania teenager was the subject of a case that was closely monitored to determine how the court would deal with the free speech rights of approximately 50 million children in public schools. Schools also had concerns about off-campus speech and online speech, which could lead to disruptions to school operations or bullying.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the 8-1 majority opinion.
It might be tempting for students to dismiss the words of their teacher as not worthy of the strong First Amendment protections discussed in this article. Breyer said that sometimes, it is necessary to protect what is unnecessary in order to preserve what is essential.
Breyer stated that the court had made it clear that students do not lose their constitutional rights to freedom speech or expression “at the school gate”.
He said that “but” he also stated, “but we have also made it clear that courts must use the First Amendment to account for the special characteristics school environments.”
A JV cheerleader unleashes an outburst
Brandi Levy was 14 years old when she wrote, “F-k school f–-k softball cheer f–-k everything.” She was upset that she didn’t get a spot on the varsity cheer squad at Mahanoy Area High school in Mahanoy City.
Levy was fired from the JV team after school officials discovered her outburst. Levy had violated school rules. Her lawyers sued the school, claiming that they had violated her right to free speech. Levy, now 18, is a freshman at Bloomsburg University.
“Today’s decision may be obvious to those who have difficulty understanding why public schools should allow students to speak off-campus, but the fact the court is identifying situations in which they cannot is actually a big deal,” stated Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst, and Professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“Although it is not clear where the line is drawn between off-campus speech schools can and cannot regulate, it will have major implications for all public school administrators moving forward. He said that it was a rare victory for students in a speech case before this court.
Justice Clarence Thomas voted against, writing that former cheerleaders who are involved in extracurricular activities have a greater chance of harming those programs because of their participation.
“For instance, a profanity-laced screed on social media or at a mall has a different effect on a Football program when delivered by a regular student than when delivered by the captain of the football club. Thomas also wrote this.