A dispute between a Pennsylvania high school student and her school district regarding off-campus profanity has been escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court said it would hear arguments in the case this week between a teenager who posted a Snapchat with obscenities while off campus and the school district that disciplined her for it.
Brandi Levy, 18, is being supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has argued that schools do not have the right to regulate students’ behaviors and speech that occurs off campus.
But the Mahonoy Area School District worries that a lack of regulation of off-campus behavior, especially when publicized on social media, could increase bullying and racism.
Levy was 14 when she posted a Snapchat expressing frustration that she was not chosen for the varsity cheerleading team. Coaches on the junior varsity team heard of the Snap, which disappears after 24 hours, and suspended her from cheerleading for a year.
Levy’s family challenged the decision in court, arguing that the punishment violated her First Amendment right to free speech. A lower Pennsylvania court ruled in favor of Levy, but the school district appealed the ruling.
The case is being seen by some as a litmus test for free speech across the United States. The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that schools may punish student speech that could “substantially disrupt” the school community, a precedent Levy’s school district cited when appealing the Pennsylvania ruling.
But whether this can be applied to speech off campus is to be determined. Either way, Levy said she was not threatening or harassing anyone.
"What I said, it wasn't targeting. It wasn't bullying, harassment or anything like that," she told Reuters.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June.