Tune in: Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in high school cheerleader speech case, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

April 27, 2021

Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the high-stakes case Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. The Court’s decision on whether schools are allowed to police the off-campus speech of students will have major ramifications for how students can be disciplined for expressing themselves, including at colleges and universities.

A win for Levy would send the clear message that students’ off-campus speech should be protected, whereas a loss could devastate students’ right to speak freely on their own time.

In March, FIRE filed a coalition amicus brief in the case, which concerns the constitutionality of Brandi Levy’s suspension from her school cheerleading squad over a profanity-laden Snapchat post. Frustrated by her relegation to the junior varsity squad, Levy — then a ninth-grader — posted “Fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” 

Despite the fact that the post was made at a convenience store on the weekend, Levy was suspended from cheerleading for a year.

Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Levy’s Snapchat post was protected by the First Amendment, and FIRE’s brief supports this finding. 

The Supreme Court hasn’t heard a K-12 speech case since 2007, and the implications of the Mahanoy ruling will be far-reaching. A win for Levy would send the clear message that students’ off-campus speech should be protected, whereas a loss could devastate students’ right to speak freely on their own time. Although Mahanoy concerns high school speech rights, FIRE has seen numerous cases of K-12 speech restrictions being misapplied to stifle speech on college campuses as well.

The Mahanoy case presents an opportunity for the Supreme Court to affirm students’ constitutional speech rights and educate the public — including school administrators and students — on the importance of preserving these critical First Amendment rights. 

You can watch the arguments on C-SPAN beginning at 10 a.m. EDT tomorrow.