BU Student’s Landmark First Amendment Case Heard by Supreme Court
*Featured image credit: Danna Singer / provided by the American Civil Liberties Union / obtained via Washington Post
How a Snapchat post turned into a First Amendment face-off.
*Editor’s note: We understand the language used can be controversial, however, we are not editing the content of Brandi Levy’s snapchat so as to not imply she posted something other than she did. On subsequent mentions, we have edited the word.
In May of 2017, 14-year-old Brandi Levy was devastated she didn’t make the varsity cheerleading squad. The following Saturday, Brandi did as any normal teenager would do and took her frustrations to Snapchat in a post that read, “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” It’s important to remember this post was made OFF-CAMPUS while she was at a local convenience store. The snapchat was eventually shown to the head cheerleading coach, resulting in Brandi being unfairly kicked off the cheerleading team for a year.
Was the school right in their decision?
No. The Snapchat post Brandi made ultimately had no effect on the school, as Mahanoy was not even mentioned. Again, the post was made at an off-campus location, not on school property. Did Brandi say anything derogatory about the school? No. She simply just expressed her feelings. Brandi then fought against and sued the Mahanoy Area School District and won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court ruled that the school violated Brandi’s First Amendment Right.
The Use of the Word F…
By dictionary definition, the work f… means, “to express anger, contempt, or disgust.” The word f… has become a popular term often used in songs, tv shows and movies. The word is also used frequently by teens and adults when expressing anger or frustration. Even if the school wanted to argue the use of the word f… is unprofessional and “foul language,” Brandi’s post using the word was made OFF-CAMPUS. The school simply cannot get mad at her for using to word when it was out of their jurisdiction.
Supreme Court Case
The case B.L. vs Mahanoy has made its way to the Supreme Court. Here, the case may potentially determine how free speech granted by the First Amendment will affect off-campus activities throughout the nations 50 million public schools.
An Interview with Brandi Levy
I had the opportunity to reach out to Brandi, who is a current Bloomsburg University student, and ask her how she felt during the entire experience.
Throughout your case how did you feel from start to finish?
“In the beginning it was really stressful. I was 14 years old. It was meetings after meetings with the lawyers and I actually had to go to two of the court hearings. Then I didn’t really hear anything about it for a few years until I heard that it was going to the Supreme Court. So altogether it’s been stressful but I managed to get through all of it.”
How did the Mahanoy School District react over the long term? How did it make you feel?
“During the entire thing, Mahanoy Area didn’t really say anything to me. The administrators didn’t say anything to me about it, they didn’t really talk about it much. Obviously there were whispers, but no one was saying anything to me specifically and they treated me like any other student.”
How has this experience changed you?
“This experience really showed me that you should 100-percent fight for your rights and stand up to what you think is right in the world. I shouldn’t have gotten punished for expressing how I felt WHILE saying it outside of school and out of school hours, and I’m glad I fought for what’s right [my freedom of speech].”
How do you feel about the significant historical impact you may be creating over the next 50 years or so?
“I mean it is kind of scary to think that that is going to be me changing history, but I’m also excited because I’m going to be changing history so people know that you should have your First Amendment rights. I will be helping young students and young adults like me and show them that it’s okay to express how you feel, and that you shouldn’t be scared.”