An Everlasting Snap

The Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L Supreme Court Case


American Civil Liberties Union

Brandi Levy standing in front of her school, Mahanoy Area High School.

A Snapchat message disappears by design — unless saved, and as ninth-grader Brandi Levy discovered, her opinions on varsity cheerleading and school would reach the Supreme Court. The freedom of speech is the first amendment, the foundation of the Bill of Rights many learned in their civics class, and it may be limited if the Supreme Court gives schools greater authority over students’ private lives.

It is normal for teenagers to complain and curse, and what Levy did was no different. “F— school f— softball f— cheer f— everything,” posted Levy on her Snapchat story, with her and a friend holding a middle finger. A girl saved the photo, and she showed it to her mother. This escalated to Levy being suspended from cheerleading for a year, leading to her suing the school district in retaliation and her subsequent win in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. However, the school district appealed.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., as the Supreme Court case is called, will decide the extent of schools punishing students for free speech — in this situation, if it will be permitted outside of the campus. The precedent case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District concluded students had a right to the freedom of speech, yet not when it was disruptive. However, this was in 1969, when social media did not exist to complicate the situation. The school is using this precedent as the foundation for its position.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. is important to students in deciding the right of speech they hold and the amount of control schools have over them outside of school, so the case is a necessity to be informed on, especially as it may set a future precedent itself.

Students are encouraged to follow the news as this case enters the Supreme Court.