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Supreme Court signals support for cheerleader in free speech case

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics - Duration: 02:22s - Published
Supreme Court signals support for cheerleader in free speech case

Supreme Court signals support for cheerleader in free speech case

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared ready to rule in favor of a former Pennsylvania high school cheerleader who was disciplined over a foul-mouthed social media post but cautiously approached the broader question of whether public schools can punish students for what they say off campus.

This report produced by Jonah Green.

One snapchat of a teenager flipping the middle finger has found its way to the center of a major free speech case at the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday justices heard arguments in a case involving former cheerleader Brandi Levy, whose foul-mouthed social media post - which she posted while off school grounds - got her kicked off the cheerleading squad for a year.

The nine justices wrestled with whether public schools can punish students for what they say off campus.

“This is the most important student speech case that the Supreme Court has decided in over 50 years.

“ VIC WALCZAK is an attorney for the ACLU in Pennsylvania, which is representing Levy in court.

“The power that the school district is asking the Court to give it would allow them to censor anything that is considered controversial, unpopular, certainly critical of the school…” Angry that that she was denied a spot in a tryout for the varsity cheerleading team after being a member of the junior varsity squad as a ninth-grader, Levy - then 14 - was at convenience store when she posted a photo of her and a friend raising their middle fingers at the camera, adding a caption “f*** school, f*** softball, f*** cheer, f*** everything.” As a result, Mahanoy Area High School banished her from the cheerleading team for a year.

"I'm still fighting it because I want to prove a point that young kids like me and young adults should be able to express themselves without the school trying to punish them." Now 18 - Levy says she has no regrets.

“That's how all my friends used to talk like that.

But I'm proud of sticking through it all the way to here.

I really am because it's going to prove a point that schools shouldn't be able to punish students for how they express their feelings and how they want to." The justices seemed ready to rule in favor of Levy, and appeared skeptical that her post was sufficiently disruptive of the school environment to have warranted the punishment she received.

But were concerned about protecting wide-ranging student expression, including contentious political or religious views, while at the same time allowing schools to address threats, bullying and other difficult situations that could arise outside the school environment itself.

The court's eventual decision would affect public schools, as governmental institutions, but not private schools.A ruling in the case is due by the end of June.




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