Let the Cheerleader’s Free Speech Rights Stand
Kids say the darndest things – and sometimes, their words could have enormous implications for student free speech rights across the country.
In this instance, it’s a Supreme Court case that centers on a Snapchat video 14-year-old cheerleader Brandy Levy made when she found out she didn’t make the varsity squad.
In a brief Snap, Levy let her anger flow:
…that weekend, she posted a photo of herself and a friend flipping the bird to the camera, with the caption “F*** school F*** softball, F*** cheer, F*** everything.”
The Snap got a huge amount of attention, and school administrators suspended her from the j.v. cheerleading squad for the rest of the year. This being America, Levy sued. And she won in the lower courts, which held the school did not have the right to punish student speech made outside of school.
There’s 50-year-old a Supreme Court precedent that says schools can regulate student speech while they are in school – but not away from school, on their own time.
According to the Cato Institute’s Thomas Berry, the Court should side with the cheerleader:
Extending [current precedent] outside the school environment would drastically chill the expression of students at a time of life when they should be finding their voice. And it would instill fear and hostility in school communities, with students aware that anything they say might be reported back to school authorities by an unsympathetic informant.
Exactly. There need to be limited to a school’s disciplinary reach, and this in a case where such a limit should be enforced. We don’t have to agree with what Levy said, or how she said it. But that’s the thing about free speech: we should defend her right to say it, on her own time, off campus.