Snapchat, Students and First Amendment Rights

The+logo+for+the+social+media+app+Snapchat

The logo for the social media app Snapchat

Written by Gianna Costanzo, Haley Oliver, and Maddie Shea

What happens when students create a negative social media post about their high school? Brandi Levy, a 14-year-old student of the Mahanoy school district in Pennsylvania, was suspended from cheerleading for a year because of a negative Snapchat post. In 2017, Levy didn’t make the varsity cheerleading team during her freshman year, and she took her frustrations to social media. On a weekend and off school grounds, Levy posted a picture using profanity and an obscene gesture to express her anger, resulting in her suspension from the team. Levy’s family sued the school for violating Brandi’s freedom of speech. They won their case and the judge ordered Levy return to her team. The school has appealed to the Supreme Court; there will be a final verdict by the end of June.

Many students felt the Mahoney school district overreacted when suspending Levy from the team, but with further analysis, both sides can be understood. Student Claire Davison states, “The school has a right to punish students for breaking the rules. But this Snapchat was taken off of school property and it doesn’t seem like a direct threat. I strongly believe in freedom of speech, but I can understand why the school would want to punish the student.”

This case is relevant to students everywhere, including Woodgrove. “She’s getting in trouble for stuff she said outside of school. This concerns Woodgrove students because it could possibly happen to them,” states Woodgrove Outlander Online Editor, Meghan Dunster.

Tenth grader Anna Cristofano says, “I can kind of see both sides of the story and why the school may be mad, but the girl should not have been punished as severely as she was for one little post when so many kids use social media in the same way she did.”  Mason Vacca, a Woodgrove student and athlete, says he understands the school’s position. Coaches have the final decision and discretion regarding who makes the team. 

The Supreme Court will weigh in if the school violated Levy’s first amendment rights.