WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — “I was a 14-year-old kid, I was upset, I was angry,” said Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania teen who was suspended from her cheer squad in 2017 for profanity-laced social media posts.
Her case is heading to the Supreme Court and poses to be the most significant ruling on student free speech in more than 50 years.
Levy said her school violated her First Amendment rights by removing her from the program. The district, on the other hand, has argued schools have a right and duty to regulate student speech in some cases.
“Schools have to deal with this every day, they try not to make mistakes, while keeping kids from killing themselves because they’re bullied,” said an official with Mahanoy Area Schools.
Levy said her response to not making the varsity team wasn’t bullying anyone nor was it harassing a specific person. Her legal team and the ACLU said the teen wasn’t even at school when she made the posts.
“The fact that like 95% of kids spend much of their lives online is not a reason to censor it, it’s a reason to provide even more protection,” said a spokesperson with the ACLU.
In 1969, Justices ruled students don’t lose their First Amendment Rights on campus. The ruling allowed for the students to continue to wear black armbands in opposition of the Vietnam War.
However, Mahanoy Area Schools said the same exact case allows a school to act if there is a significant disruption.
“The internet’s ubiquity,” according to the district. “Instantaneous and mass dissemination and potential permanence make the speaker’s location irrelevant.”
A ruling in the case is expected by summer.