High court hears Mahanoy Area case Wednesday

Apr. 28—MAHANOY CITY — As the U.S. Supreme Court readies to hear arguments Wednesday in Brandi Levy's student free speech case against the Mahanoy Area School District, her father said people have been supportive as they learn more about the unique case through the extensive recent media coverage.

"I have not received any negative feedback on our side," said Larry Levy, who has contact in the community as an employee of Mahanoy City Borough.

He said he's found that people were unaware of two key facts.

"It seems a majority of the people who read the article are outraged at the school board and the district for taking this case as far as they did over the use of a profane word at the taxpayers' expense," he said.

"Also," he said, "a lot people thought that we were going to get financial gain from this, that we were going to get this huge monetary award, which isn't the case. We're not getting anything out of this. This is about principle, not financial gain."

At 10 a.m., the court will hear oral arguments from attorneys, via telephone because of the pandemic, in what's on the docket as "Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.," with Brandi Levy's initials used when the case was filed because she was just 14. A ruling from the court is expected by June 30.

In May 2017, when Levy was a freshman, the district punished her for posting on Snapchat a photo of her and a friend at a convenience store holding up their middle fingers with the text "f... school f... softball f... cheer f... everything" superimposed on the photo, with the f-word spelled out.

She was subsequently dismissed her from the junior varsity cheerleading squad.

After the school refused the Levys' request to reverse the decision, the family sued.

After a second lower court victory for the Levys in June, the district appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brandi Levy told the Republican Herald for a story in Sunday's edition that she is fighting for her rights and has no regrets that her seemingly harmless social media post has lead to a case before the Supreme Court nearly four years later.

While the school district's legal team hasn't commented about the merits of the case recently, it did argue previously that, "... if B.L. were hired by a private company after graduation from college and she were to post on social media online the exact message she posted about the school and cheer squad with respect to her private employer, she would be rightfully disciplined if not fired."

The case has drawn national attention because it could affect how public school officials can discipline a student for comments posted on social media and off-school property and not during school hours.

The district's side will be argued the Levin Legal Group P.C. through attorney Lisa S. Blatt, a partner with the law firm of Williams & Connolly, LLP, Washington, D.C. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has provided legal representation to the Levys.

Brandi and Larry Levy plan to listen to the arguments via computer at home. Due to work, Brandi's mother, Betty Lou, won't be home.

The hearing should last about one hour, but it could be longer if the justices ask for more information.

The link to the audio broadcast on C-SPAN Radio is www.c-span.org/video/?510036-1/mahanoy-area-schools-district-v-bl-oral-argument.

Contact the writer: jusalis@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023