The story of the case begins when freshman cheerleader Brandi Levy tried out for her local high school’s cheer team, the Mahanoy Golden Bears. When she did not make the team, she voiced her opinions via her Snapchat story where she used foul language to express her anger with the school.
Thinking nothing of her language, she expected everything to be fine. However, days later her post reached the Mahanoy Student Ethics Conduct board and Levy soon found herself suspended and banned from high school cheerleading for a year.
The court case is arguing whether the school has the right to punish Levy for this ethics violation even though it was not on school property. This case has been undertaken by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who has sided with the Levy family to protect Brandi’s rights off school grounds as a school punishment violates her right to free speech.
The court case is arguing whether the school has the right to punish Levy for this ethics violation even though it was not on school property.
It is understandable for the school to react in a disciplinary measure as it does violate their code of conduct against inappropriate behavior. However, it seems like a gross overstep and overreaction on the school’s course of action, taking into account where the incident occurred.
The school policy does in fact violate one’s first amendment right to free speech, particularly as she was not on school premises. Many schools do not tolerate vulgar language, as they find it disrupts the learning environment, but Brandi Levy was not on the property where this may seem troublesome.
The school has no place to dictate what one says off school property, even if it involves the school itself. It is to students’ own discretion and personal choice as they are protected under the first amendment. Thus, school policy has no grounds for disciplinary actions if they were committed off school time and property.
The school’s decision to suspend Levy sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that schools are allowed to infringe on student’s speech outside of school. Though Levy’s word choice may have been seen as inappropriate to some, this teen would have likely learned more of a lesson through verbal warning, or detention.
The school’s decision to suspend Levy sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that schools are allowed to infringe on student’s speech outside of school.
Even so, it is up to the parent’s tact of what they do and do not allow their daughter to say under their roof and outside of school. This post was crafted where the school policy is not applicable; the student code of conduct never reaches past school grounds. For example, dress code policies are only abided by at school, not administered at home. Overriding this poses a questionable threat to not only the student’s first amendment rights but to a parent’s authority over their own child.
As one can see, Mahanoy Area School District and Levy’s high school are far beyond its bounds in ways of enacting discipline. This court case will begin going underway with arguments beginning April 28, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Salten News