On Memorial Day weekend, 2017, then-14-year-old Brandie Levy sent a snapchat that would change her life forever.
This spring, that post had finally made it to the U.S Supreme Court. When the verdict arrives in the next couple weeks, millions of schools across the country will be affected. The decision of this case will determine the free speech rights of American students for generations to come.
Levy, now a student at Bloomsburg University has garnered a lot of attention in the recent months. She has recently appeared in an TV interview with CNN and The Washington Post, NYT, NPR, and many other news outlets have written articles about her case. Now, Levy wants to be seen as the teen, “who stood up for her freedom of speech.”
Go back to that weekend four years ago…. As for any 14-year-old that was playing softball, cheerleading, and keeping up with friends, life was stressful. After cheer tryouts for varsity and not making the cut, Levy was angry and “frustrated at everything” and as any young person does today, she went online to vent.
While at a local convenience store, located closer to her home than to school grounds, she posted a brief snapchat which included some unsavory words: “F*** school, F*** softball, F*** cheer, F*** everything.”
A post that was meant to disappear in 24 hours would soon become national news. When asked what Levy thought the reaction to her post would be she said, “I thought no one would really bother with it.”
The following Monday, Levy was confronted by one of her cheerleading coaches. Levy was called down to the coach’s room, finding that her post was printed out by the coach, Levy was then told how the post was “disrespectful towards her [the coach] and shit.”
Levy found herself speechless and was understandably upset by the school’s reaction. None of her classmates every confronted Levy and to her knowledge it never affected any of her classmates.
Levy is surprised that her case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court and thought that it would have been dropped when she was allowed back on the cheer team (after being suspended for a year). Once the district court ruled in Levy’s favor and she was back on the cheer team, the school kept appealing the case.
Ultimalty, it was the school that took the case to the Supreme Court. When asked why she thought the school kept appealing it, Levy responded, “They didn’t want to lose.”
Levy’s parents were not happy with the language she used in her post but were angrier with the school’s reaction. They felt it was not the school’s place or duty to punish Levy for her actions when they took place outside of school grounds. The school was interfering in personal matters.
Levy is very aware of the significance of her Supreme Court case and is passionate about defending her and other students first amendment rights: “… It’ll prove to schools that they can’t punish students for what they say out of school unless its harassing or bullying.”
Levy’s case has received both negative and positive feedback. Although, through it all, she has remained grounded and focused. To the negative comments from strangers online Levy says, “how are you going to sit there and judge me because you know one thing about me.” Levy simply blocks out the negative responses and “bull(s) them to the side.”
If one had to remember Levy for anything, remember her as the girl “who stood up for her freedom of speech.” Levy stated why she believes she should win the case: “It will change the history of schools and it will prove to students you are allowed to express how you feel and express it how you want without being punished by someone else.”
If Levy had known the reactions and publicity her post would have generated four years ago, would she have posted it?
“I feel like some part of me would have just because now my name is in the Supreme Court fighting for my first amendment right and for many other students,” Levy said. “I feel like another part of me would not have, just because it blew up and everyone is texting me about it and I don’t like it.”
Through this whole experience Levy has learned a valuable lesson, that “…it’s okay to post how you feel, express how you feel on social media and that you shouldn’t be getting punished for it.”
The Supreme Court has heard Levy’s case and has until June 30th to publish a verdict.