- The Supreme Court sided 8-1 with a cheerleader punished for a profane Snapchat rant.
- Brandi Levy was suspended from her team for cursing out her school after she didn’t make varsity.
- The court ruled that school districts have limited powers in regulating student speech outside school.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a former high-school cheerleader who was punished after posting a profane rant on Snapchat, ruling that a Pennsylvania school district violated the First Amendment by suspending her from the team.
Brandi Levy and her parents had sued Mahanoy Area High School after she was punished for posting profanity on Snapchat when she missed out on making the varsity cheerleading team in 2017.
Then a 14-year-old student, Levy posted a photo of herself and a friend with upraised middle fingers and the caption “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.”
The photo eventually made its way to the cheerleading coaches, who suspended Levy from the team for a year, saying the Snapchat violated team rules by using “foul language and inappropriate gestures” and featuring “negative information regarding cheerleading, cheerleaders, or coaches,” The Washington Post reported.
Levy said the Snapchat was taken at a convenience store off school grounds. With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, she and her parents sued the school, saying officials had violated her First Amendment right to free speech.
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the district had overstepped its bounds by suspending Levy.
The ACLU sought to persuade the court to set a new precedent for how school districts can police student speech, arguing that existing laws and legal precedents gave too much leeway to districts.
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.
The court’s decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, maintained that schools have an interest in regulating student speech, but it said a previous Supreme Court case did not give schools the power to regulate speech occurring off campus.
Before the case made it to the Supreme Court, judges in two federal courts and an appeals court had ruled in favor of Levy.
In a previous interview with Insider, Levy, now a college student, said she’d felt “isolated” after the school punished her.
“I couldn’t say anything without getting yelled at or getting in trouble for doing it,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t express how I felt without getting in trouble.”