The US Supreme Court has found that a Pennsylvania school violated a student cheerleader’s right to free speech when it punished her for a profanity-filled Snapchat post she made off campus.
Brandi Levy — then a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader — was suspended in 2017 from cheerleading at Mahoney Area High School for a year for posting “f—k school, f—k cheer” on Snapchat because she was mad she didn’t make the varsity squad.
“The school violated [Levy’s] First Amendment rights when it suspended her from the junior varsity cheerleading squad,” the eight-to-one decision from Wednesday reads.
The justices found that Levy — now 18 — made the post outside of school hours. She also didn’t name the school or target anyone from the school community when she swore, she used her own cellphone and only sent the post to her circle of friends. And the posts didn’t significantly disrupt the cohesion of her team.
“The school itself has an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off campus, because America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy,” the ruling said.
For those reasons, the school didn’t have a right to interfere, the decision reads.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenting vote.
The school and Levy’s lawyer separately did not immediately return requests for comment.