US Supreme Court hands victory to cheerleader in free speech case


But Levy's speech did not fit, he wrote.

In an 8 to 1 decision, the court ruled in favor of the cheerleader, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing the majority opinion and Justice Clarence Thomas writing the lone dissent.

"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".

Breyer cited cyberbullying, threats to teachers or students and online cheating as examples of when schools may be able to crack down. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Levy and her parents in the lawsuit against Mahanoy Area School District, had argued that students need protection from censorship and monitoring of their beliefs. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the students, declaring they don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate".

"Unlike Tinker, which involved a school's authority under a straightforward fact pattern, this case involves speech made in one location but capable of being received in countless others-an issue that has been aggravated exponentially by recent technological advances", Thomas wrote. Days later, Lee's school accused her of breaching a code of conduct and suspended her from cheerleading for an entire year. On a Saturday at a Cocoa Hut convenience store in Mahanoy City in Pennsylvania's coal region, she posted a photo of her and a friend raising their middle fingers, adding a caption using the same curse word four times to voice her displeasure with cheerleading, softball, school and "everything".

Snapchat story posts are created to appear for 24 hours, then vanish. Some cheerleaders and students chafed at the posts and the controversy disrupted classes, according to court papers. However, one recipient took a screenshot of the image before it was erased and the image ended up before the eyes of cheerleading coaches at the school. A federal judge ordered Levy's reinstatement, finding that her actions had not been disruptive enough to warrant the punishment.

While he agreed generally that schools should have less authority over off-campus student speech, he objected to the majority's decision not to explore how much less.

Witold "Vic" Walczak, the legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, previously told Insider that school districts effectively had the power to punish the nation's 50 million public-school students for any speech they deemed controversial, even if the students expressed the views off school grounds and outside of school hours.



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