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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Milder punishment makes more sense in Levy case

THURS. | 05-27-21 | OPINION

     Back in 2017, high school sophomore Brandi Levy was having a bad week. She had not made the varsity cheer squad and had also not gotten the softball position she wanted. This resulted in a considerable amount of profanity consisting of the “F-Word,” posted about the school on her Snapchat story. The story was then sent around, eventually reaching the daughter of one of the cheerleading coaches. As a result of this language about the school, Levy was then also kicked off of the junior varsity cheer squad which she had landed a spot on. I feel like the school could have originally gone with a milder punishment considering Levy didn’t directly harm or harass anyone. For example, they could have chosen to give her a week's suspension from the team. 

     Removing Levy from the junior varsity squad resulted in conflict from the Levy family. They thought removing Levy from the junior


Photo contributed by ABC News

varsity team was completely unfair. After speaking to the school board about trying to get Levy back onto the team and the school board denying her yet again, the Levy’s eventually filed a federal lawsuit. The Levy’s also argued the point that the Snapchat story did not go against the Supreme Court ruling in 1969. The case was Tinker v. Des Moines and it said that public schools could punish disruptive student speech in schools. Levy’s story was posted for 24 hours, off of the school campus, on a weekend and had no affiliation with any school event. 

     The school's response to the decision was that “The way that students communicate today, through social media and off-campus online messages, can have a tremendous impact on on-site learning. It can threaten student safety and cause emotional harm to students.” I don’t think the school’s statement about this is correct because there are multiple things in our personal lives that have an impact on on-site learning. For instance, not getting enough sleep can make students irritable and not be able to focus. What are they going to do next, suspend every student that doesn’t get at least nine hours of sleep every night?

     During the Supreme Court hearing on Apr. 28, Levy’s attorney’s argued that “if the speaker's under the supervision of a school, you can stop him from swearing. But if the speaker is at home on the weekend, you can't stop her from swearing. Her parents could. And it's her parents' job to regulate, not the school's job at that — at that location.” One Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, stated that the post was only made to “blow off steam” and that Levy’s actions did not correlate with her punishment. There have also been statements from Marcia Coyle, the chief Washington correspondent for “The National Law Journal '' claiming that the Justices may feel inclined to rule with the student, but would not be making a statement on the rights of students free speech and how schools should regulate it. There were also concerns from the Justices on whether or not ruling with the school district could have negative consequences on how students express themselves. 

     The nine justices will present a final decision on the matter by this summer. Overall, I just don’t think it makes sense for schools to have the added responsibility of trying to manage what students do or say within their free time away from school, nor should schools want it. I also don’t really agree with the school's perspective that Levy’s post could have disrupted learning or affected the school in any way. She was just upset about not making the varsity team and it should have been left at that without any harsh punishments or being taken all the way to the Supreme Court. 

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