• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Teen cheerleader's Snapchat brings Supreme Court clash over schools and free speech

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

When 14-year-old Brandi Levy didn't make the varsity cut as a freshman cheerleader for the Mahanoy Golden Bears, she sounded off on social media, as teenagers are known to do.

Video Transcript

- [? It's ?] kind cases, headed to the Supreme Court, that tackles a controversial question. Can schools crack down on teenagers for their posts on social media?

- At the center of all of this is a teenage cheerleader from Schuylkill county, who was punished at school for something she posted on Snapchat.

- Alicia Vitarelli is here now with the details. Alicia.

- And this has a lot of people talking. This case has major stakes for teachers, coaches, students and their families all across the country. At the heart of it, freedom of speech.

Back in 2017, when 14-year-old, Brandi Levy, didn't make the varsity cut as a freshman to cheer for the Mahanoy Golden Bears, well, she sounded off, like teenagers are known to do.

BRANDI LEVY: I was angry. And I made a post on Snap. I said-- it was, F school, F cheer, F softball, F everything.

ALICIA VITARELLI: The school got wind of the message posted off campus on a weekend and came down hard, suspending Brandi from cheerleading for an entire year, saying she breached a code of conduct.

BRANDI LEVY: They told me that I'm lucky I didn't get expelled from school for it. Because it was vulgar language.

LARRY LEVY: If they would have just took her and said to her, Brandi, you know, kind of watch-- just be careful of what you're saying or you're doing. But as far as the action they took, I think that was far reached above and beyond where they should be.

ALICIA VITARELLI: With help from the ACLU, the Levy's sued the school in federal court for violating Brandi's freedom of speech. And they won. A judge ordered Brandi returned to the team. And later, in a sweeping decision, a federal appeals court said, a school's authority to enforce the rules quote, "does not apply off campus."

BRANDI LEVY: The schools can't punish students for what they say outside of school and not on school grounds or school hours.

ALICIA VITARELLI: Paul Healey represents hundreds of Pennsylvania principals, backing the district and says, this decision threatens to handcuff schools nationwide.

PAUL HEALEY: If somebody says something offline, like in a school or something, and you were disciplined for that, then you should be able to do the same thing if they do it online. That type of language and that type of rhetoric causes the school harm and could cause a disruption in the school.

ALICIA VITARELLI: The Mahanoy school district will appeal to the US Supreme Court. The court will hear arguments in the case on April 28 and hand down a decision by the end of June. I will tell you a lot of eyes on this one.

- All right, we'll be watching. Thank you, Alicia. [? Sport-- ?]