Brandi Levy never landed a place in her Pennsylvania school’s coveted cheerleading squad. Out of frustration, I snapped a photo that would later have consequences, and posted it to Snapchat with some less well-chosen words about school, cheer, softball, and “everything.”
The school in Mahanoy heard of the photo and the coaches hung it up for a year, depriving Levi of the opportunity to join the team.
I got the right to court
Then, in 2017, the girl’s parents went to court to demand that the suspension be revoked. They argued that freedom of expression applies under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The family was right, the verdict was appealed, and then the family – represented in court by the Civil Rights Movement of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – was right again.
‘Disrupting school activities’
The school then took the matter to the Supreme Court, citing a ruling there from 1969 that students were permitted to protest (in this case against the Vietnam War) but protests that disrupted school activities could be punished. The school claims to have the power to identify what’s troubling, even if the disturbance occurs outside the school district, as long as it affects students.
The Supreme Court will hear the case on Wednesday, which in a larger context concerns more than one girl in Pennsylvania. If the school is right, it gives schools the right to punish students for comments they make outside the school.