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Supreme Court rules in favor of former high school cheerleader reprimanded for cursing online

4 months 19 hours 26 minutes ago Wednesday, June 23 2021 Jun 23, 2021 June 23, 2021 11:16 AM June 23, 2021 in News
Source: CNN

MAHANOY CITY, Pennsylvania - The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it ruled in favor of a former high school cheerleader who took legal action after she was punished by her school for posting a profanity-laced caption on Snapchat while she was not on campus, CNN reports.

Brandi Levy, 14 years of age at the time of the 2017 incident, took to Snapchat to express her anger after she didn't earn a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

Her post was laced with expletives and when school officials were alerted to what she'd written they reacted by suspending her from the JV team for violating school rules.

But Levy's lawyers sued, claiming the school violated the teen's freedom of speech. 

The Supreme Court agreed with this claim in an 8-1 majority, Wednesday.

The case garnered national attention as school officials across the U.S. navigate a slew of similar, off-campus online incidents. 

In regards to the case, Justice Stephen Breyer stated, "It might be tempting to dismiss (the student's) words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein. But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary."

Breyer said the court is highlighting the fact that students "do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression even 'at the school house gate."

"But," he continued, "we have also made clear that courts must apply the First Amendment in light of the special characteristics of the school environment."

However, Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, writing that students like the former cheerleader "who are active in extracurricular programs have a greater potential, by virtue of their participation, to harm those programs."

"For example, a profanity-laced screed delivered on social media or at the mall has a much different effect on a football program when done by a regular student than when done by the captain of the football team. So, too, here," Thomas wrote.

Levy, now 18, is a freshman at Bloomsburg University.

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