Frustrated at not being promoted to her high school’s elite squad, a 14-year-old cheerleader split a spicy message on the Snapchat app, photo of her middle finger on the support.
Brandi Levy was far from suspecting that her slew of insults would lead her to the venerable United States Supreme Court, which is reviewing Wednesday her school’s decision to deprive her of her pompoms for a year.
Underneath its trivial airs, this issue is important for the freedom of expression of young Americans, but also for the fight against online harassment.
Beyond the file of the teenager, the nine wise men of the high court will indeed have to say if the officials of public schools have the right to sanction their students for remarks made outside their establishment.
Brandi Levy had published her message on a Saturday in 2017, far from her high school in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.
“I had applied to be cheerleader for the elite team and was not taken, it made me angry,” she told the powerful civil rights association ACLU. , who represents her in court.
Armed with her cell phone, she had photographed herself with a friend, middle finger in the air, and added: “Fuck school, Fuck the cheerleaders, Fuck softball, Fuck everything!”. Her message had reached the coaches who had sidelined her for a year.
His parents then went to court in the name of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and were right at first instance and on appeal.
Local school authorities then asked the Supreme Court to intervene, relying on a 1969 judgment, in which the high court had allowed students to wear black armbands in opposition to the Vietnam War, but clarified that speeches disrupting the functioning of establishments could be punished.
Schools “have the right to regulate conduct that takes place outside their limits, but has effects inside”, pleaded the authorities of Mahanoy in an argument addressed to the temple of Law, stressing that cell phones and distance education during the pandemic had made this border artificial.
They have received the support of the Democratic government of Joe Biden for which “categorically” prohibiting the sanctioning of remarks made outside schools “would weaken the efforts to fight against online bullying”, a growing and devastating scourge.