(PresidentialWire.com)- On Wednesday, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania teenager who sued her high school for banning her from the cheerleading squad after she posted a profanity-laced screed on Snapchat. However, the court declined to outright bar public schools from regulating off-campus speech.
The court ruled that Mahanoy Area School District officials violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Brandi Levy, who was 14 at the time of the incident.
The decision, authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, preserved the authority of public schools to regulate speech of students “in some off-campus circumstances.”
In giving examples of what those circumstances may include, Breyer cited severe bullying or harassment, threats directed at teachers or other students, and rule-breaking.
At the same time, Breyer made it clear that schools have less power to regulate off-campus speech than they would on-campus speech, adding schools “will have a heavy burden to justify” off-campus intervention.
Justice Clarence Thomas, the only dissenting vote on the case, wrote in his dissent that schools “historically could discipline students in circumstances like those presented here.” Thomas believes the court’s decision will leave lower courts “at a loss” in how to apply the ruling.
The now-18-year-old Levy praised the court for agreeing with her that her school went too far.
Explaining that, at the time, she was “frustrated” and only “expressed my frustration the way teenagers do today.”
Levy, a member of the junior varsity cheer squad at the time of the incident, had tried out for the varsity team and was unsuccessful. In response, she posted a photo to Snapchat of her and a friend flipping the bird that included an an F-word-laden caption.
In response to Levy’s post, the school kicked her off the cheerleading squad for a year.
Levy’s case was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Biden Justice Department supported the school district, arguing that, while off-campus student speech deserves broad protections, speech that threatens the school community or targets specific individuals, groups or school functions should not be protected.