The importance of the ranting cheerleader

Supreme Court case will determine the future of student free speech


Megan Evans, Staff Writer

Imagine schools being able to punish students for anything they post on social media, even things posted outside of school. If this were the case, students’ free speech would be extremely limited. This may seem unrealistic because students have free speech outside of school, right? Well, a case is coming to the Supreme Court, and the outcome of it could be just this. 

The case is called  B.L. v. Mahanoy Area School District. B.L. stands for Brandi Levy, a ninth grade highschool student on her school’s cheerleading team. Upfront Scholastic says in 2017, sometime during spring, Levy heard that she did not make the varsity cheerleading squad. On a Saturday, she posted a frustrated rant on her Snapchat story about the situation. The post contained Levy and a friend holding up their middle fingers and a curse word mentioned four times before “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.” The post did not disturb school or get in the way of the learning process. It was essentially harmless and just allowed the teen to express her feelings. However, a student took a screenshot of Levy’s post and showed it to their mom, one of the cheerleading coaches. Soon, Levy heard she was suspended from the cheerleading team for a year. She sued the school and won in a sweeping victory. The Court of Appeals said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds. The school district appealed and asked the Supreme Court to take the case. 

This leaves us where we are now. One side will limit students’ speech outside of school and the other will protect students’ speech. This case is very important to all students. Students’ words and speech are a part of who they are. Students should be able to express their voices, and it is unfair for schools to limit that when they are outside of school, especially if their speech doesn’t hurt anyone like Levy’s. No one was hurt by her post and it is wrong for the school to limit that speech especially because it was outside of school. 

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the school, students will be like controlled, mindless robots. It’s not that their feelings will go away, but they will have no safe space to express themselves, not even in the safety of their homes. Schools could deem anything they say “offensive” or “unacceptable” and punish students. This is obscene; kids are not excused from the protection of the First Amendment because they go to school during the week. Also, the student press would be severely affected. This would basically allow more censoring to the student newspapers and the work would be less authentic. It is very important for student journalists to be able to write about the things going on around them without being denied the right to write about such things. 

This Supreme Court case can forever change the rights students have and what they can say outside of school. Taking away Brandi Levy’s voice would take away every future student’s voice. Students should not lose their freedom and rights because they attend school during the week. The door to schools is not an open invitation to take away the rights of students. Students have the right to express themselves outside of the school door.