May 1—MAHANOY CITY — Insurance is covering Mahanoy Area School District's legal bills as its appeal of a student free speech case has risen to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The school district has paid the deductible of $15,000 related to our E&O (errors and omissions) insurance (policy)," Business Administrator John J. Hurst told the school board Thursday night. "All costs since the case began and any future costs related to the civil rights case will be paid for by insurance. So, the net cost to the district is $15,000."
District Superintendent Joie L. Green asked Hurst for the explanation to "get the correct information" to the community.
"I have been asked numerous times, and false information is out there," she said. "We just wanted to make sure that everyone knew the cost to the district's taxpayers."
The nine justices on the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for nearly two hours on Wednesday in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. They're expected to rule by June 30, the end of the judicial session, in what could be a historic moment for free speech rights.
The case began in late 2017 when the parents of Mahanoy Area then-freshman Brandi Levy sued on their daughter's behalf after she was removed from the cheerleading team for a year because of a profane Snapchat post. Last June, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in favor of the Levys. The district again appealed, this time moving the case to the nation's highest court.
Central to the argument is whether public school officials can discipline a student for comments posted on social media off campus and not during school time.
District solicitor John G. Dean noted the attention the case has drawn.
"As you know, we made 'Good Morning America' yesterday," he said.
"We don't anticipate a decision until probably about June 15, which is usually when the Supreme Court issues its decisions," Dean added. "We want to keep an eye out on June 15 and see how that all plays out, but I thought the argument went very well."
The American Civil Liberties Union has represented the Levys and is not charging them. The organization has valued the legal work at "well over $1 million."
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