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Opinion
Noah Feldman

Cheerleader Free Speech Case Puts Liberals in a Bind

The ACLU and conservatives want to protect students’ speech rights while the mainstream left is worried about enabling harassment.

A cheerleader, but not the f-bomb dropping cheerleader.

A cheerleader, but not the f-bomb dropping cheerleader.

Photographer: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

“Cheerleader” and “Supreme Court” are not concepts you often see juxtaposed. But they are now, as Supreme Court considers the case of Brandi Levy, who was punished by her school for a profane Snapchat post.

The facts of Levy’s case, Mahanoy School District v. B.L., are simple. In the spring of 2017, Levy, then 14, tried out for the varsity cheer squad at Mahanoy Area High School, but only managed to make the JV team. She expressed her reaction on Snapchat in a post that read “F--- school f--- softball f--- cheer f--- everything.” (Our version is expurgated; hers was not.) The post went up on a Saturday, reached some 250 of her friends and, like all other posts to the social media platform, disappeared after 24 hours. Nevertheless, a classmate showed a screenshot to her mother, who happened to be one of the cheer coaches.