The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania teenager who sued after her vulgar social media post got her banished from her high school's cheerleading squad in a closely watched free-speech case.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter.
The justices, in an 8-1 ruling, decided that the punishment that Mahanoy Area School District officials doled out to the plaintiff, Brandi Levy, for her social media post made at a local convenience store in Mahanoy City on a weekend violated her free-speech rights.
"It might be tempting to dismiss [the student's] words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein," Breyer wrote. "But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary."
Levy posted a message Snapchat on a Saturday in 2017 after learning she didn't make her school's varsity cheerleading team. The 14-year-old shared a post with her 250 followers showing her and a friend raising their middle fingers, with a caption full of 'F-bombs about school, softball, cheerleading, and "everything."
Posts to Snapchat automatically delete after 24 hours, but one of Levy's followers, a fellow cheerleader, took a screenshot and shared it with a cheerleading coach.
The cheerleading coaching staff determined that violated team and school rules about student conduct, and suspended Levy from the squad for her sophomore year.
But the justices also declined to endorse a lower court decision that found that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of free speech prohibited public schools from regulating off-campus speech.
Material from Reuters was used in compiling this report.
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