Wednesday, June 23, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Mahanoy Area Cheerleader in Free Speech Case

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court announced their ruling of a case heard on April 28th, 2021 involving a former Mahanoy Area cheerleaders first amendment rights after she posted a vulgar statement to Snapchat.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court granted a former Mahanoy Area cheerleaders request to hear a case in which the district punished a student for online speech that occurred off-campus on a weekend.

The student, in court documents identified as B.L., who was a minor at the time, but has since been identified as Brandi Levy, of Mahanoy City, had been removed from the Mahanoy Area Cheerleading Squad for 1 year after posting "F*** School, F*** Softball, F*** Cheer, F*** Everything".

Friends and teammates of Levy's had taken screenshots of the post which eventually made their way to coaches and school officials that led to her removal from the squad.

Levy's parents had sued on behalf of Brandi due to the posts being made off campus on a weekend.

The case, which made it's way to the U.S. Supreme Court was the first case on the free speech rights of a student since 2007.

On April 28th, 2021, the case was heard by the 9 court justices and on Wednesday, their ruling was announced.

The Justices ruled in favor of Levy's case by a vote of 8 to 1 with Justice Clarence Thomas being the dissenting vote.

The opinion of the court was delivered by Justice Breyer who stated,

In response, the school suspended the student for a year from the cheerleading team. We must decide whether the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit correctly held that the school’s decision violated the First Amendment. Although we do not agree with the reasoning of the Third Circuit panel’s majority, we do agree with its conclusion that the school’s disciplinary action violated the First Amendment.  

The Mahanoy Area School District released a statement on Wednesday afternoon that stated:

The Mahanoy Area School District is pleased with and vindicated by today’s Supreme Court decision. The School District unanimously won the issue upon which it sought Supreme Court review: all 9 Justices rejected the Third Circuit’s conclusion that school districts lack authority to regulate off-campus speech. The Supreme Court held that it does “not agree with the reasoning of the Third Circuit.” The Supreme Court instead enumerated many examples of situations when school districts can regulate off-campus speech and made it clear that its list was not exclusive. So, although the Court upheld the $1 judgment in favor of Ms. Levy, we are very pleased that the Court agreed with our arguments about schools’ authority to address off-campus speech under a wide variety of situations. This decision is an important vindication of schools’ authority to protect students and staff and to fulfill schools’ educational missions

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