The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former high school cheerleader who was suspended for a profanity-laced post on social media in a case that has serious implications on how schools discipline students for comments made outside of school.
Brandi Levy was upset after she failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad as a freshman in 2017. After learning she wasn't on the varsity teen, Levy posted a message on Snapchat in which she used the f-word multiple times.
"F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything," she wrote.
After school officials learned about the profane message, they suspended Levy from the junior varsity cheerleading squad, prompting her to file a lawsuit. Levy argued that the school violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with Levy and found that school officials went too far by punishing her.
"While public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech, the special interests offered by the school are not sufficient to overcome B. L.'s interest in free expression in this case," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.
The ruling doesn't take away schools' ability to punish students for their off-campus speech in cases. He wrote that schools do have some leeway to punish students for what they say or post on social media, such as cases of bullying, harassment, or threats of violence.
"We do not believe the special characteristics that give schools additional license to regulate student speech always disappear when a school regulates speech that takes place off campus," Breyer wrote. "The school's regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances."
Breyer said that High Court's ruling is not meant to set a precedent that allows students to say whatever they want without consequence.
"We hesitate to determine precisely which of many school-related off-campus activities belong on such a list," Breyer wrote. "Thus, we do not now set forth a broad, highly general First Amendment rule stating just what counts as 'off campus' speech and whether or how ordinary First Amendment standards must give way off campus to a school's special need to prevent, e.g., substantial disruption of learning-related activities."