The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 Wednesday that a former cheerleader’s profanity-laced social media post was protected speech under the First Amendment. Civil liberties groups celebrated the decision as one of the most important free speech rulings in decades. In 2017, school officials in Pennsylvania suspended 14-year-old Brandi Levy from her cheerleading squad after she used the F-word in a Snapchat post to complain about failing to win a promotion to the varsity squad. The court ruled in Levy’s favor, arguing she should not have been suspended for off-campus speech.
Brandi Levy: “It’s not only like a win for me, but it also is for everyone else, because now students can freely express themselves without them, like, being scared that they’re going to get punished by the school.”
The court did rule, however, that schools may punish online speech if it genuinely disrupts classroom study or is otherwise harassing or bullying. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, in a lone dissenting opinion, that the school was right to suspend Levy. Thomas has long held that students have little or no right to free speech.