MAHANOY CITY, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A 14-year-old girl from Schuylkill County who blasted her school on Snapchat four years ago got her day in the Supreme Court.
It’s the first case addressing freedom of speech of students or minors that the Supreme Court has heard in 50 years.
The Mahanoy Area School District suspended Brandi Levy from cheerleading over a profanity-laced posting on Snapchat four years ago. The arguments in court Wednesday morning centered on whether public schools can discipline students for something they say off campus.
“It was nerve-wracking but like I was excited that it went this far,” Brandi said.
18 year-old Brandi Levy was at the center of a Supreme Court case Wednesday.
“I was aggravated that the school stepped outside their boundaries into my home,” Brandi’s father, Larry Levy said.
Brandi and Larry say they never expected this case would go in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.
“I never did, I though once I petitioned the school to reverse the decision they would have read it thoroughly and just reversed it or once the ACLU got involved but they didn’t and here we are,” Larry said.
The nine justices heard nearly two hours of arguments in an appeal by the Mahanoy Area School District of a lower court ruling in favor of Brandi.
The Supreme Court worried about going too far in restricting speech on the one hand and leaving educators powerless to deal with bullying on the other.
The attorney for the school district argued to the Supreme Court Wednesday.
“The internet’s ubiquity, instantaneous and mass dissemination and potential permanence make the speaker’s location irrelevant,” lawyer Lisa Blatt said.
Brandi says she was in the right.
“I feel like schools should have a line, if someone’s bullying, threatening, harassing, targeting the school in anyway that’s when I feel the school should be able to do something. But the fact that I didn’t even put the school’s name in it, I didn’t specify anyone, I didn’t target anyone, threaten anyone, so they had absolutely no right to step in and punish me,” Brandi said.
Larry tells Eyewitness News he was disappointment how this school handled the profanity-laced social media rant and worries what would happen if the Supreme Court sided with the school.
“If the ruling went in favor of the school district it would basically mean students have no free speech anywhere. Anything they say, whether political, religious, controversial. A school official could say ‘well that was disruptive and I’m going to punish you for that’,” Larry said.
The Supreme Court has until the end of June to rule on the case. Eyewitness News reached out to the attorney representing Mahanoy Area School District. They declined to comment.