The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in the case of a teenager who was kicked off of her high school’s cheerleading team for cursing in a Snapchat video.
Brandi Levy, now a freshman in college, was kicked off her high school’s junior varsity cheerleading team in 2017 after posting a Snapchat story in which she flipped off the camera while saying, “F*ck school, f*ck softball, f*ck cheer, f*ck everything!” The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is representing Levy, and groups including the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Cato Institute submitted amicus briefs on her behalf. The Court will hear oral arguments by phone due to COVID-19.
“Fuck school. Fuck cheer. Fuck softball. Fuck everything.”
That post got our client kicked off her school’s cheerleading team and now, it’s the subject of a free speech debate at the Supreme Court. https://t.co/qfXeDeajG6
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 7, 2021
Levy’s attorneys note that she sent the video “on the weekend when she was not participating in any school activity. Notably, this Snap did not specifically mention the High School or picture the High School.” Schools may regulate some student speech that “cause[s] substantial, material disruption to school activities.” However, her attorneys argued that “schools have no power to punish ‘lewd or profane’ speech … when it occurs outside of the school context.”
A district court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals already ruled for Levy.
The Supreme Court vastly expanded student free speech rights in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, a 1969 case that allowed students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. At the time, the Court ruled that “[n]either students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” and schools may only restrict speech that “might reasonably have led school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities.” (RELATED: Tennessee Passes Bill To Protect Free Speech On Campus)
The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has been very supportive of free speech claims, according to multiple legal commentators. The Court ruled in March that a college could not force a Christian student to limit his religious speech to a “free speech zone.” It also ruled in the seminal case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government can not prevent private groups from engaging in political speech during an election cycle.